Alison Martin

Project Title: The governance and ownership of rural Scotland and implications for the rewilding agenda.

The concept and practice of ‘rewilding’ has emerged in recent decades as a response to specific pressures such as biodiversity loss, species extinctions, and widespread habitat loss and fragmentation.  The term is contested and rewilding occurs at different scales, within a range of contexts, and encompasses a variety of activities.

In Scotland, the rewilding agenda is progressing through both official and unofficial means – formal reintroductions, land owner action (e.g. large-scale tree planting), individual exploits (e.g. illegal releases), or mistakes (e.g. escapees).  In tandem, other agendas are evolving, including land reform, with investigations into restricting land ownership, the promotion of community buy-outs, and policies encouraging participation in land use decision making.

Whilst research has looked into the ideas and practice of rewilding, investigating the multiple and often conflicting definitions of what is ‘wild’, and looked at land ownership, governance and legitimacy in arenas such as crofting, little attention has been paid to the governance and landownership structures within which rewilding and reintroduction activities are currently occurring.  In addition, there is little policy structure or agreed guidance on rewilding.

This PhD will investigate the governance and ownership of rural land in Scotland within the context of decision-making around rewilding.  The aim is to improve the knowledge base as well as reflection processes in relation to governance and engagement around land use decision making, and rewilding and reintroductions specifically.  While much has been written about what ‘rewilding’ means to people, we currently lack a clear structure or frame of reference for how rewilding decisions are actually made and implemented, and by whom.

Alison is a first year Carnegie Scholar (2018) in the Scottish School of Forestry, University of the Highlands & Islands. Her research is supervised by Dr Melanie Smith (UHI) and Dr Rob McMorran, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

Awarded: Carnegie PhD Scholarship

Field: Forestry

University: University of the Highlands and Islands

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