By Dee Ward, Rottal Estates
I was pleased to be asked to host the BBC national network news at Rottal Estate recently and eagerly anticipated journalist Allan Little’s report which was broadcast on Wednesday both on television and radio.
Of course, there’s never enough time to tell your whole story but I was surprised and disappointed to see the important debate around rewilding framed as a rewilding versus grouse shooting argument.
Along with Sarah Jane Laing, from Scottish Land & Estates, and Lianne MacLennan, from the Scottish Regional Moorland Groups, we went to some length to explain the contribution made to the environment and improving biodiversity.
We showed them around Rottal and they seemed genuinely impressed by the various activities on the estate and from memory we saw Black Grouse, Kestrel, Buzzard, and Goshawk.
In this day and age, the term landowner does not accurately reflect what we do. Our family runs a land-based business. Our income comes from renewable energy (hydro & biomass) sheep farming, holiday lets, events such as weddings as well as shooting and stalking.
We are also conservationists committed to improving wildlife, biodiversity and habitats. We have planted approximately 250,000 trees in the last 15 years and working with partners returned the Rottal burn to its natural course, we are in the process of restoring 300 hectares of peatland to help with carbon capture and flood mitigation.
Rewilding has become a very fashionable buzzword but it encapsulates what many of us have been doing for many years.
It’s not them or us and it’s not an either or. To some people, rewilding is some kind of magic wand that will help the landscape but often this requires more human interference to establish especially in the early years and the simplistic view of abandoning all forms of land management would not achieve the stated goals in the timescale required.
The way the uplands is managed now by progressive land managers shows very clearly that they are friends of the environment and nature.
The evidence is there for all to see and what we need to do is work together to achieve net zero and biodiversity net gain not polarise arguments by divisive commentary based on inaccuracies or stereotypical views. Renewable energy projects, peatland restoration, carbon capture, sustainable housing, sustainable farming, tree planting are all part of activities undertaken by forward thinking private landowners today in Scotland. We’re part of the solution to many of the challenges faced in rural areas and we have collectively thousands of years of experience as land managers. These were all points made forcibly to the BBC team during their visit but sadly they failed to reflect this in their broadcasts.
Grouse shooting is part of what we do – but it is only part of what we do. Done right, it does deliver substantial environmental and economic benefits and we always want people to come and see what we do for themselves as we have nothing to hide and lots of good things to show people.
Of course, there are those who judge people like me on what we own. I would simply ask them to judge on what my estate does and hopefully they will then see that we strive to always do good for the environment and deliver nature-based solutions and biodiversity net gain.