Dec 082015

(medium) Scots pine seedling in snow, inside dwarf birch exclosure Dundreggan2With thanks to Richard Bunting, Director, Richard Bunting PR.

People can help rewild the Scottish Highlands and take action on climate change this Christmas by having specially-dedicated trees planted for family and friends through conservation charity Trees for Life.
A dedicated native tree will be planted in the Caledonian Forest for each recipient of Trees for Life’s Christmas tree certificates – creating a home for wildlife and forests for the future.

A personalised certificate accompanies the planet-friendly gift, with one tree costing £15, and further trees £5 each.

Trees will also be planted for recipients of the charity’s ‘plant a tree’ winter gift card. Each card costs £6 + P&P, and contains information about the tree that will be planted and the wildlife that will benefit.

“People all over the world will be hoping that an effective global deal can be reached by the world’s governments currently gathered at the Paris Climate Change Conference. Alongside international agreements, we can all take personal action for our environment, with one tangible and specific way being the planting of a dedicated tree in the Caledonian Forest,” said Alan Watson Featherstone, Trees for Life’s Executive Director.

“Every tree dedicated will help reduce the impact of climate change by replacing the carbon footprint and packaging of Christmas presents with a gift that instead soaks up carbon dioxide, and that benefits wildlife and Scotland’s wild landscapes. It’s a meaningful and inspiring way of celebrating the festive season, which also makes a real positive difference for the planet.”

Only a fraction of the ancient Caledonian Forest now survives, but Trees for Life volunteers have helped to plant more than one million trees across the Highlands. Each tree dedicated for Christmas will help the charity to establish one million more trees by planting and natural regeneration by 2018.

Trees for Life also has available a range of unique Winter Gifts – including original artwork, T-shirts, and shopping bags – with all proceeds helping to restore the forest. The charity’s 2016 calendar (£10.95) provides an annual celebration of the richness of the Caledonian Forest and features stunning photography, while the beauty of the Highlands is also showcased in its 2016 Engagement Diary (£14.95).

A Sponsor a Squirrel gift pack (£30) – featuring a photographic print from wildlife photographer Peter Cairns and a soft toy or a signed limited edition Tori Ratcliffe art print – will help red squirrels return to areas of the Highlands from where they have been lost.

It’s also possible to sponsor an acre of wild forest at Trees for Life’s Dundreggan Conservation Estate near Loch Ness. Each sponsorship gift of £60 is recognised with a special certificate, and will help to expand Caledonian pinewoods for red squirrels, pine martens, wood ants and Scottish wildcats, and to create and restore precious habitats from wildflower meadows to wetlands.

For more details, please visit or call 01309 691292.

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Mar 202015

martin-fordWith thanks to Martin Ford. Councillor Martin Ford is to serve on a new Aberdeenshire Council working group set up to overhaul the authority’s governance arrangements.

Cllr Ford (Scottish Green Party, East Garioch ward) will represent the three Aberdeenshire councillors who are neither in the Council’s coalition administration or the SNP on the 14-member working group.

The new working group – to be known as the ‘Future Governance Working Group’ – was agreed at last Thursday’s (12 March) full council meeting.

The immediate need to change the Council’s governance arrangements results from the integration of health and social care – but other pressures, including an on-going financial squeeze, also point to a review being necessary.

Speaking during last Thursday’s full council debate, Cllr Ford described Aberdeenshire’s current governance structures as having been ‘tired for some time’. He urged that a bold approach is taken by the Working Group.

Cllr Ford said:

“The Future Governance Working Group has an important job to do. Some changes are needed because of new circumstances. Some changes are needed to address things that are currently not working well, or not as well as they should. Some changes are desirable as over-due improvements.

“For example, a public petitions committee was mooted in 2012. Yet the Council has still not established one.” 

Cllr Ford has identified a number of areas where he believes significant changes are needed. He said:

“I hope the Council will agree to strengthen the role of its Area Committees.

“The process for setting the Council’s budget has to change and include meaningful opportunities for public engagement and consultation. As well as public involvement, there must be a new approach to the scrutiny and challenge of proposals by councillors.

“It has been made ridiculously difficult for councillors to get issues of concern on to the agenda of Council meetings through submitting notices of motion. And this has been a deliberate policy of the Council. It is an essential democratic safeguard that individual elected councillors can raise issues at formal Council meetings.

“I believe the Council must take a fresh look at decision making in relation to cross-cutting priorities such as climate change. Decisions primarily about some different matter will often have knock-on effects for the Council’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and we need to get better at checking for unintended consequences and secondary effects during the decision making process. Otherwise the Council can accidentally undermine its own policies.

“We also need to look for efficiencies in the decision making process. This is extremely important given on-going financial pressures.”

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[Aberdeen Voice accepts and welcomes contributions from all sides/angles pertaining to any issue. Views and opinions expressed in any article are entirely those of the writer/contributor, and inclusion in our publication does not constitute support or endorsement of these by Aberdeen Voice as an organisation or any of its team members.]

Nov 142014

sky-mountain-1By Bob Smith.

A hiv noo ti confess masel’
A’ve cursed fin it dis rain
Canna git on the gowf course
Greens flooded eence again

Bit hae a wee bit think fowks
If we didna hae the rain
Kwintraside aa leukin gizzent
Baith here an in Dunblane

Nae watter rinnin doon the hills
An inti oor rivers tumblin
The fairmers tryin ti growe craps
Wid fair hae cause fer grumblin

Nae greenery in hills or glens
Trees stuntit in their growth
Nae watter ti the distilleries
Noo aat wid raise an oath

Fin yer plowt’rin throwe the dubs
An aa the rainfa it is measur’t
Jist myn withoot the rain
We’d be like the Gobi desert

Gweed Lord lit the rain doon faa
On golden locks an baldy heids
Ca cannie wi hivvens’s watterin can
Jist aneuch fer aa oor needs.

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012
 Image Credit: SKY MOUNTAIN 1 © Alexandru Mitrea |

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Sep 192014

Aberdeen Climate Action are setting up a photography exhibition focused on climate change.With thanks to Erik Dalhuijsen.

Disengage linocut - original artwork by Ade AdesinaClimate change is happening. It is happening now and is having very real consequences on people’s lives over the entire globe.

Climate change is disrupting national economies, costing us dearly today and will cost us even more tomorrow. We need to act now to try and prevent furtherwarming and the devastation that comes with that.

The world’s leading scientists state that there is strong evidence that humans are creating this climate change through their behaviour. If we are creating this problem then we can also be the ones to prevent it getting any worse by modifying that behaviour.

Climate change can be limited, with existing technologies and efforts, but we need to actually make this happen. Positive action is required. We need to send a clear message out to our leaders that we support action to reduce carbon emissions.

People, organisations, companies and governments need to do much more of some things, and much less of some other things. Politically it is often easier to sell doing something new (such as free charging for electric cars), rather than no longer doing something old (such as burning coal or pulping rainforest). But doing more is no longer enough: we also need to do less.

The United Nations are holding their Summit on Climate Change on 23rd September 2014 in New York. Globally people will be speaking out to implore these gathered politicians to take the substantial steps necessary to reduce as much as possible further global warning and its attendant
natural disasters.

We want to add our voices to those others campaigning for states to commit to a target and plan to reduce carbon emissions. We would like your help to spread the word and apply pressure on our leaders to do what they can to save this planet and all of us on it.

Aberdeen Climate Action: Photo Exhibition.

The Photo Exhibits will be interspersed with information posters, illustrated with extracts of artwork from Ade Adesina. The exhibition will open in The Belmont Filmhouse Cafe-Bar on Saturday 20 September at 11:00  (entry from 10:30) and will run until October 19.

Venue: Belmont Filmhouse Cafe-Bar
49 Belmont Street,
AB10 1JS,

Open: Weekdays and Saturday. 11:00 – 22:30 Sundays: 12:30 – 22:30

  • Image credit: ‘Disengage’ – original artwork by Ade Adesina
Jan 162014

By Bob Smith.


Floods they are noo frequent
Efter lots o hivvy rains
Mony say ae problem is
Biggin on flood plains
Hooses biggit near rivers
Es canna be jist richt
Mony hooses on flood plains
Is nae an idea maist bricht
Watter fa’in fae the sky
It needs tae soak awa
Concrete aa ower the lan
Es is nae eese ava
Mair biggins needit is the cry
Tae hoose oor growein masses
Maybe we jist need less fowk
An keep oor meadows an oor grasses
The answer’s nae an easy een
A solution it maan be fun
If climate change means mair rain
Fair sweemin wull be the grun.
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014
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Jun 252013

Alex Mitchell makes a welcome return to Voice, his insights inspired by his walks around the city and his musing on contemporary affairs.

January 22. Looked out the window this morning and thought, ‘Snaa’s all gone’, then switched on the radio to find that the roads are very hazardous 15-plus miles in all directions out of Aberdeen but especially in the rural hinterland.

One begins to wonder whether it is actually a feasible proposition to live in these inland places.

Winter conditions are obviously much more extreme and also persist much longer – they set in earlier and end later – than on the coast.

Everything is so much more time and trouble, takes so much longer – basic survival becomes the overarching preoccupation, crowding out other interests and concerns.

Even the summers in these inland locations are oppressive – just too hot, no cooling sea breezes, no access to the coast and dead, still air.

This, of course, is why humanity has always tended to cluster around seaports, river estuaries and coastal locations, quite apart from the business and employment opportunities associated with ports, the rivers and the sea – trade, commerce, import/export, fishing, boat and shipbuilding and transportation.

February 10. A Sunday afternoon spent in Union Terrace Gardens, assembling birds’ nesting boxes from kits with a view to building up the resident wildlife.

Cold, rain and sleet, but we were in a sheltered spot under the arches which support Union Terrace itself. Back to the Gardens the following Friday to see the fifteen birds’ nesting boxes, now varnished, being located high up on the trees by skilled personnel with a cherry-picker.

A much milder, Spring-like day, bright and sunny and clumps of snowdrops in evidence.

This is the kind of small-scale incremental improvement, largely undertaken by volunteers, which can transform our civic amenities at modest expense.

February 17. To Holburn Junction and west end of Union Street. Bell’s Hotel is in a very run-down state, the bar still open for business but otherwise closed up, the frontage ill-maintained with much vegetation and a large tree growing out of upper storeys.

Plans for redevelopment, extending the building back to Justice Mill Lane, seem to have stalled.

Further along, in the old Watt & Grant building, one of a clutch of gents’ outfitters, G*Raw, is having a closing-down sale, advertising 70% off. Aberdeen City Council has reluctantly granted planning permission for change of use to a bar/restaurant.

The long-established Austin Reed premises are in poor condition and are advertised for rent, but it is difficult to find tenants for any premises westward of the Music Hall – too far from the main centres of retail activity in St Nicholas Street, Union Bridge and the Union Square mega-mall.

Along Bon Accord Street and Langstane Place to Justice Mill Lane: the Radisson Park Inn hotel looks as tacky and out-of-place as ever, its paintwork and finishes deteriorating already. Similarly, the Travelodge at the other end of the IQ office building. Across Justice Mill Lane, the former Budz Bar premises, closed for refurbishment in 2007 and never reopened, are a major eyesore.

We have become so indoctrinated into regarding property as a wonderful can’t-fail asset and investment that it is difficult to accept that property can, in fact, be effectively worthless or even a net liability, costing more to service and maintain than it can ever earn in rent or other income.

The familiar pattern in the city centre has usually been that ground-floor premises can be let out for use as shops, bars, restaurants and fast-food outlets, but that upper floors are left unlet and unused.

 it is difficult, if not impossible, to force landlords to maintain unwanted buildings to an acceptable standard

Upstairs premises used to accommodate professionals such as dentists, tailors, solicitors, architects and accountants, but less so nowadays, perhaps because of the lack of modern facilities, car parking or uncongenial surroundings. The question would obviously arise as to whether it is possible to operate conventional business activity in a street or locality largely given over to pubs and bars.

Much the same would apply to the residential accommodation which used to prevail on the uppermost floors of these old buildings, where the means of exit in the event of fire might be a concern.

The private-sector solution to buildings which are expensive to maintain but which can be neither sold nor let out would be to demolish.

‘Listing’ and Conservation Area status operate to prevent such action, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to force landlords to maintain unwanted buildings to an acceptable standard; many proprietors simply cannot afford to do so, in the absence of any income stream.

Some may resort to deliberate fire-raising to remove a building regarded as a financial liability and money-pit. Derelict and empty buildings are quite likely to be set on fire anyway, by vandals, tramps and rough sleepers.

This is pretty much the position we had reached in relation to MarischalCollege some years ago. The building was impossibly expensive for its owners, the University of Aberdeen, to maintain to any acceptable standard, given that they had little use for it.

There was no serious prospect of sale or of finding a suitable tenant. The private-sector response would have been to demolish, but that was unacceptable to public opinion.

In the meantime, like much of Union Street and the city centre, Marischal College was deteriorating and quite likely to be set on fire and burn down. The only available solution was, in effect, to take the building into public ownership on the basis of a 175-year lease to Aberdeen City Council, since when it has been renovated and put to productive use.

The Council should be able to buy the buildings at modest expense – the landlords want out, after all

This seems to me to be the only workable solution to other such instances of ‘market failure’, where no private-sector solution is forthcoming or acceptable, such as the former Watt & Grant buildings on Union Street and the Victoria Buildings at the foot of Bridge Street, facing down Guild Street.

The Council should be able to buy the buildings at modest expense – the landlords want out, after all – and purchase and renovation costs might form the basis of a future TIF application, given the improving effect on the whole surrounding area which we have already seen happen to spectacular effect with Marischal College and Broad Street.

March 7. The Criterion Bar, Guild Street: a proposal to convert to a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

This used to be an iconic Aberdeen pub, occupying a prominent corner site opposite the railway and bus stations, and was an obvious port of call for many a thirsty traveller or football fan. It had an attractive Edwardian-style interior, featuring much carved wood and etched glass, apparently now largely destroyed.

The pub had been closed these last two years pending another proposal to convert to a Rice & Spice food store.

Whether or not a Sainsbury’s will be of greater utility or amenity than the long-established Criterion Bar remains to be seen.   There are two other bars nearby, Aitchie’s Lounge and the Lorne Bar in Trinity Lane, behind the Tivoli Theatre, and of course the Carmelite Hotel.

April 30. Sunny, but cold and windy. Parked the car at the Union Square mega-mall and walked up to M&S via the Green and Correction Wynd, Xmas gift voucher in pocket.

This is one of the first fine, sunny days for weeks, but the Green is completely empty at 2.30 on this weekday afternoon, with nobody going into or coming out of the various premises. Much the same absence of pedestrian footfall evident in Hadden Street.

The longer-term problem with the decline of M&S is that they have always been a mainstay and linchpin of the nation’s High Streets

Through the tunnel under Union Street and up Correction Wynd – an agreeable medieval ambience in the vicinity of the Mither Kirk, but again not a soul – not even a ghostly soul from the Ghaist-raw – to be seen. Along St Nicholas Lane, past the Prince of Wales, to M&S, which is advertising a sale, up to 70% off.

There is a glaring disconnect between M&S’s TV advertising and in-store displays, invariably featuring slender, snake-hipped young people, and the reality of the small numbers of mostly elderly customers trailing wearily around their overheated menswear department looking for a pair of trousers that might conceivably fit the larger person.

I settle for a pair of shoes I don’t really need or want – got to offload the gift voucher somehow.

The problem with having only elderly customers, especially elderly customers who don’t buy much, is that we oldies must sooner or later fall off the perch, and where will M&S, not to mention the Conservative and Unionist Party, or Aberdeen Journals, be left then?

The longer-term problem with the decline of M&S is that they have always been a mainstay and linchpin of the nation’s High Streets – a destination store, in fact – and if there is less and less reason to go back there, then the High Street and our town centres are even deader than we thought.

Walked back to the mega-mall via Correction Wynd and Carmelite Street. The rowan trees planted in enclosures alongside the Aberdeen Market in Hadden Street and in Carmelite Street and Rennie’s Wynd seem to be taking hold and coming on now, but the surrounding shrubs are being overwhelmed by faster-growing weeds.

Container gardening is a very labour-intensive business, as I am sure we all know, and ACC may not have the manpower to do it properly.

May 15. Mary Portas, self-styled Queen of Shops, is back on TV, now trying to work her dubious magic on the nation’s High Streets. She is in the Kentish seaside resort of Margate, being whiny and self-pitying when local traders refuse to let her into their public meeting on the not-unreasonable grounds that she had slandered the town on an earlier visit.

One might as well try to persuade people to take their holidays in Albania

Ms Portas had no real idea what to do about Margate and neither would I, Margate being the equivalent of a Lanarkshire mining town where the coal ran out decades ago.

At one stage Mary P is back in London, trying to persuade the throngs of mostly young people descending on Camden Market to spend their Saturday in Margate instead.

The point unintentionally made here is that people come to Camden because it offers something they want – the antiques and vintage fashion market, the surrounding specialist shops, the pubs, cafés and bars, the whole scene and ambience. People travel from Margate to Camden to experience this.

Nobody travels from Camden to Margate. One might as well try to persuade people to take their holidays in Albania.

The issue is partly one of scale.

A large community can support all kinds of special-interest activities because even just 1% of the population of London, or even of Bristol or Edinburgh, is still a lot of people, with considerable combined spending-power; but 1% of the population of, say, Banchory is only about fifty people, and 1% of the population of a village might be about five people.

Minority or special-interest activities which may well be viable business opportunities in a city or large town are unlikely to be so in a small town or village. A city will normally be able to support a university, possibly two universities, which are large employers in their own right and give rise to many spin-off activities.

Villages, on the other hand, are all too often unable to support as much as a primary school, a pub, a fish and chip shop or an Indian takeaway.

This lack of business opportunities, jobs or choice of employer means that small village communities are of little interest or use to anyone who has to earn a living, and even middle-class retirees tend to shun depressed and run-down places like Margate.

Salesmanship seems to be a fast-shrinking area of employment

Last year I wasted a day in Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, which really did seem like the Village Of The Damned, even on a sunny weekday. If a community is to remain viable it simply has to have an economic base of investment, enterprise and employment.

One of the most significant trends of our time is the gradual disappearance of secure and decently-remunerated jobs, such as allow people to lead an independent, adult existence, leave the parental home, get a place of their own and, in due course, finance the purchase of a house in a neighbourhood fit to raise a family in.

One might think of the hierarchy of staff who would be employed in a High Street bank back in the days of Dad’s Army, as compared with the skeleton staff of a modern bank, of which there are in any case far fewer than there used to be. Similarly, insurance offices and travel agents.

Salesmanship seems to be a fast-shrinking area of employment. When do we interact with a salesman/woman nowadays, except perhaps when buying a car?

The internet means that things we used to pay people to do we can now do for ourselves. This reduces the cost of living and makes poverty more bearable, but it also means fewer job opportunities and lower wages in many of such jobs as remain, for example, in journalism.

The recent council elections in England revealed a high degree of discontent in rural communities such as Boston, King’s Lynn and Wisbech to the effect that there are simply no decent jobs, or jobs that pay a living wage. The jobs there used to be on the land, in farming, have largely been mechanised out of existence.

The point was made that locally, the average wage has converged on the National Minimum Wage of about £6-7 per hour, whilst quite a few employers in practice contrive to pay even less than the Minimum Wage.

  I was a bit concerned, since it is not normally a good sign when whales and dolphins come up-river

Employee benefits such as pensions have been cut back and working conditions are deteriorating. People are caught by the twin pincers of falling wages and rising house prices. The average wage no longer finances the purchase of the average house, or indeed any house.

Such council housing as existed was sold off in the 1980s and the tied cottages occupied by farm workers are long gone.

Local discontent tends to target East European immigrants, but their impact is mixed.

They compete for certain kinds of work and housing, possibly driving wages down and rents up, but some industries – fruit-picking, fruit and veg processing and hotels – would not survive without immigrant labour, and their children sustain enrolment in local schools, many of which would otherwise close.

Immigration from Eastern Europe is probably one of the few dynamising elements of the Fenland economy, if the truth be told, and the same may also be true of much of Scotland.

June 4. The BBC’s Springwatch has highlighted the activities of the dolphins which congregate around the entrance to Aberdeen harbour. The first time I saw these creatures I was a bit concerned, since it is not normally a good sign when whales and dolphins come up-river, usually suggesting that they are lost and confused.

Dolphins and whales would normally avoid a noisy, heavily-trafficked locale such as the harbour entrance. The attraction for the Aberdeen dolphin pod is the confluence of fresh water coming down the River Dee and the salt water of the North Sea.

Salmon, returning up-river to breed, can only access the river of their birth via the narrow harbour entrance, and are thus easy pickings for the waiting dolphins. The Aberdeen dolphins were described as ‘large, fat, talkative, loud and they repeat themselves’.

They have evolved as larger animals to cope with the cold North Sea, acquiring an extra layer of blubber in the process.  They chatter a lot between themselves, loudly and repetitively, so as to be able to work as a team to trap the incoming salmon.

In effect, the dolphins are having to shout to make themselves heard against the background of submarine noise generated by ships moving in and out of the harbour. They have become a significant visitor attraction viewed from the Nigg car park and elsewhere.

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Jun 072013

By Bob Smith.

‘Fit’s aat up abeen?’, says I
Fin a spied an ususual sicht
A yalla orb in the sky
Shinin doon sae bricht

A hid tae rack ma memory
Tae think fit it micht be
It cam tae me sudden like
T’wis the sun fit a did see

It hid been a wee fylie
Since it showed its face
Hail, rain, win an caul
Wis fit we’ve hid tae face

So shine on richt merrily
Mr Sun ye cheer us aa up
An hae us steppin oot briskly
As tho we wis a young pup

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013
Image: Orange Sunset © Zoran Tripalo  Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Dec 062012

Founder and executive director of conservation charity Trees for Life,  Alan Watson Featherstone, has triumphed in the Environment category of the prestigious Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards 2012, announced at a ceremony in Edinburgh on 29 November.

The awards mark outstanding individual contributions to Scottish cultural life which inspire others.

Categories commemorate all that is great about Scotland, including Art, Business, Food, Music, Screen, Sport and Writing as well as the Environment.

The recipient declared:

As the winners of these awards are decided by public vote in the UK, this is an inspiring, national recognition of Trees for Life’s restoration of the Caledonian Forest. I’m very grateful to everyone who voted. It’s an honour that shows how deeply people care about conserving Scotland’s world-class wild landscapes, and about protecting our stunning biodiversity and wildlife.”

The charity has already planted more than a million trees at dozens of locations in the Highlands, creating ten thousand acres of Caledonian Forest, and has pledged to establish a million more trees through planting and natural regeneration within the next five years.

Today, only a fraction of the original forest survives, but Trees for Life is restoring it and its unique wildlife to an inspiring, spectacular wilderness region of a thousand square miles to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness.

In his acceptance speech, Featherstone acknowledged the support he’s received from current and past staff of Trees for Life, and the thousands of volunteers who have worked on the project since 1989. He dedicated the award to everyone who’s been inspired by, and cares about, the Caledonian Forest, which he described as ‘a Scottish national treasure’.

His wide-ranging, long-term work to change humanity’s impact on nature and the planet has provided inspiration for ecological restoration projects in the Borders, Dartmoor and the endangered Parana pine forest in south-east Brazil.

People can support Trees for Life’s work by purchasing dedicated trees to celebrate births, weddings and special occasions. A tree will also be planted for every recipient of a new Plant a Tree winter gift card this Christmas.

Meanwhile, the charity’s acclaimed volunteer Conservation Weeks offer opportunities to gain practical conservation experience in spectacular surroundings.

Telephone: 0845 458 3505

More on Trees For Life

Trees for Life’s story began at a major environmental conference at Findhorn in October 1986 when Alan, who at that time had no experience of conservation work, no funding and no access to land, made a commitment to delegates to launch a project to restore the Caledonian Forest.

The forest had once covered much of the highlands, with native pinewoods encompassing 1.5m hectares at their maximum extent in a wild landscape of mountains, lochs and rivers. Largely a result of land clearance, wood use and farming, centuries of deforestation had taken a huge toll by the 1980s, with only a tiny percentage of the former forest remaining.

Practical conservation work began in June 1989, when Alan took a team of volunteers to place tree guards around Scots Pine seedlings in Glen Cannich, to protect them from deer. By 1991, Trees for Life had begun to plant a new generation of trees, some of which were the first to grow in the Caledonian Forest for 150 years.

Trees for Life’s vision includes reintroduction of the forest’s wildlife and plants to form a fully-functioning ecosystem. It has developed as an award-winning charity with a dedicated staff team, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters.

In 2008, it bought the 10,000-acre Dundreggan Estate west of Loch Ness, one of the largest areas of land in the UK ever purchased for forest restoration.

The charity’s awards include UK Conservation Project of the Year 1991, the Millennium Marque in 2000 and Top Ten Conservation Holidays worldwide in 2009. In addition, Alan received the prestigious Schumacher Award in 2001 for his ‘inspirational and practical work on conserving and restoring degraded ecosystems‘.

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Oct 042012

People from all over Scotland are calling on their local MSPs to do more to help Scotland tackle climate change and meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  With thanks to Mandy Carter, Press Officer, WWF Scotland.

A recent report highlighted that Scotland has missed its first target to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This could make it even more difficult for the country to meet its commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 42% by 2020, on 1990 levels, as outlined in the country’s world-leading Climate Change (Scotland) Act.

To make sure their MSP knows how strongly the public feel about this issue local residents are being invited to attend a Mass Lobby event at the Scottish Parliament at 12:45 on Thursday 25th October. 

The event is being organised by the largest civil society coalition in the country, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland,  and will bring MSPs face-to-face with their constituents.

Tom Ballantine, the Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, said,

 “The Scottish Government is quick to champion Scotland’s climate change legislation and hold it up as a world-leading example, but this risks looking somewhat hollow given that it has so far not been matched with enough action to follow through on the commitments in the Act.

“It’s now time for our politicians to get their act together and implement Scotland’s climate laws.”

Millions of people in developing countries are being hit first and hardest by the devastating effects of climate change, despite having done little to create the problem.  Changes to global weather patterns together with an increase in droughts, flooding and storms mean that crops are being destroyed, people are going hungry, and homes and livelihoods are being lost.

Scotland’s historic consumption of fossil fuels to generate great economic wealth now means the country has a moral obligation to address the climate change problem by cutting its domestic emissions.

To find out how you can help – click here

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Jul 262012

Reforestation could benefit Scotland’s economy by boosting wildlife tourism, claims conservation charity Trees for Life, which has announced ambitious plans to double its current rate of restoration work in Scotland’s Caledonian forest. This will see the establishment of one million more trees within five years, through planting and natural regeneration. With thanks to Richard Bunting.

The charity, which aims to restore the Caledonian Forest to an area of over 2500 square km in the Scottish Highlands, has launched its Million More Trees campaign in a response to deforestation, climate change and biodiversity loss.

But their ambitions could also bring significant benefits to Scotland’s economy by boosting wildlife tourism.

Alan Watson Featherstone, the charity’s Executive Director, explains,

“Establishing a million new native trees in the next five years represents a significant scaling up of our work. We have set ourselves this challenge as a response to the threats posed by environmental degradation globally, and human-induced climate change.

“At the same time, it is part of a positive vision of re-establishing world-class wild landscapes rich in wildlife in Scotland. The Highlands in particular, with a lot of empty land and a low population density, is a perfect region for tree planting.

“With wildlife tourism already generating an estimated £276m a year for the Scottish economy, it’s clear that restoring the Caledonian forest and its unique wildlife to an inspiring, spectacular wilderness region of a thousand square miles, could have significant economic as well as environmental benefits for the country.” 

In a report published this month, Tourism Intelligence Scotland estimated that every year over a million visits are made to Scotland to view wildlife. Launching the report, Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing said that 58% of visitors to Scotland cite scenery and landscape as the main reason for choosing our country as a holiday destination.

Trees for Life’s plans for the next year include significant planting of native trees on its Dundreggan estate near Loch Ness, a natural regeneration project in a Caledonian forest remnant in Glen Strathfarrar, and undertaking work to protect regenerating aspens and the planting of new aspen seedlings at Scatwell, north of Inverness.

Since 1989, the charity has created 4000 hectares of new Caledonian forest, and has worked at 45 different locations. A complex web of life is already renewing itself in these emerging forests. Habitat restoration is making a notable impact on wildlife such as strawberry spiders, wood ants, red squirrels, rare sawflies, ospreys and capercaillies.

Since planting its first trees in 1991 in Glen Affric, Trees for Life has planted over one million trees, the major milestone being reached in May 2012 when acclaimed wildlife cameraman and BBC filmmaker Gordon Buchanan planted that one millionth tree. In this time, the charity has won awards including the 1991 UK Conservation Project of the Year, the Millennium Marque in 2000 and Top 10 Conservation Holidays worldwide in 2009.

The first tree of the Million More Trees campaign was planted at Dundreggan by the Highland naturalist, author and presenter, Roy Dennis, Trees for Life patron.

Readers can support Trees for Life by funding dedicated trees and groves, and it offers Conservation Holiday Weeks to allow people to gain practical conservation experience in beautiful locations.

More Info –
Tel. 0845 458 3505.

Image credit:  TREE OVER SUN © Egidijus Mika |

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