50 for the Future – Living Landscapes

Our recent publication, 50 for the Future, lists 50 things that we believe should happen in Scotland over the next 50 years to benefit both people and wildlife. In this week's 50 for the Future article, Ian Mackenzie, Living Landscapes Programme Manager for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, explains why it is important that the Living Landscape approach is increasingly adopted throughout the country.


Number 49: Establish over 20 Living Landscape projects where landowners and communities work together to improve ecosystem health, social value and prosperity.


The health of our ecosystems are fundamental to the health of our people and economy. There are plenty of academic studies to support this, but all the evidence that is really needed is around us. Visit any thriving community and you will find people that are connected to their environment and are working together to improve it. This is what the Trust calls a Living Landscape – at its most basic level, a place that both people and wildlife want to live in. 

©Beth Chalmers/Pidgin Perfect
The new town of Cumbernauld is 50% greenspace. The Living Landscape is working to restore the town’s ecosystems and re-connect people to their natural environment. ©Beth Chalmers/Pidgin Perfect

The Living Landscape concept focuses on managing land at the landscape-scale to benefit people, wildlife and the economy. These projects are rebuilding our natural environment on a larger scale than ever before. Without space for nature, ecosystems will collapse with inevitable negative consequences. Protecting small oases of wildlife as an emergency measure has slowed the decline in biodiversity, but it is now time to think beyond these boundaries and integrate the wildlife and natural processes at every scale.

It is the people and their will to change that will really make the difference in the long term. Projects need to be relevant to people’s lives and this will be different depending on their circumstances. In the urban realm, the challenge lies in deprived communities where social and environmental inequalities run hand in hand. With rural communities, a Living Landscape needs to support the rural economy and create opportunities. The approach to creating a Living Landscape depends on both the natural habitats and social and economic needs of an area. However, there are some common factors that are necessary for success:

  1. Action needs to be taken on multiple scales from peoples gardens to massive parks and reserves.
  2. Projects of this size need deep-rooted support and must be driven by the aspirations of local people.
  3. There needs to be the will to change and serious investment in rebuilding natural assets on a landscape scale.
© Joe Cornish, 2020VISION
The Coigach – Assynt Living Landscape is one of the largest landscape restoration programmes in Europe. Projects such as the Little Assynt tree nursery will produce native trees and shrubs to be used in woodland schemes across the North West Highlands. © Joe Cornish, 2020VISION

Currently, the Scottish Wildlife Trust is leading on three major Living Landscape projects and supporting a raft of other landscape initiatives. You can find out more about the projects here but these projects are just demonstrations. They are within the grasp of the Trust and its partners to deliver over the coming years. To link them up and achieve the scale of change we want, and need, to see in 50 years’ time, the area of land being managed in this way must significantly increase. Twenty Living Landscape projects throughout the country would be fantastic, but one country-wide and truly living landscape must be the ultimate aim.

Let us know your thoughts by emailing thefuture@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk or Tweet @ScotWildlife using #50fortheFuture.

Ian Mackenzie is the Living Landscape Programme manager for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Having led the development of the Cumbernauld Living Landscape he is now responsible for the development of the Trust’s Living Landscape programme. 

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In this week's 50 for the Future article, Ian Mackenzie explains why it is important that the Living Landscape approach is increasingly adopted throughout the country.

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