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Scottish Government minister hears more about Flow Country World Heritage bid


By Gregor White

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Brian Eardley (Scottish Government – Nature Division); Frances Gunn (Chair of the Flow Country World Heritage Project Steering Group); Nicole Wallace (Highland Council, Service Lead - Environment, Sustainable Transport and Development Plans); Professor Stuart Gibb (UHI/Chair of the Flow Country Partnership); Gillian Martin (Minister for Energy & the Environment); Raymond Bremner (Leader of the Highland Council), Dr Steven Andrews (Flow Country World Heritage Project Coordinator). Picture: Graham Neville
Brian Eardley (Scottish Government – Nature Division); Frances Gunn (Chair of the Flow Country World Heritage Project Steering Group); Nicole Wallace (Highland Council, Service Lead - Environment, Sustainable Transport and Development Plans); Professor Stuart Gibb (UHI/Chair of the Flow Country Partnership); Gillian Martin (Minister for Energy & the Environment); Raymond Bremner (Leader of the Highland Council), Dr Steven Andrews (Flow Country World Heritage Project Coordinator). Picture: Graham Neville

The Flow Country’s potential to be a globally significant exemplar for just transition to a low carbon future was explored as Scotland’s environment minister visited the area.

During a meeting with the Flow Country Partnership team, Gillian Martin heard how the current bid to secure UNESCO World Heritage Site status for the 200,000 hectare site could shape future opportunities for local communities, including new rural jobs and skills in green industries, decarbonisation of homes and infrastructure, and stronger community resilience in the face of the climate crisis.

The visit to Forsinard in Sutherland yesterday gave the minister an opportunity to engage with representatives of the coalition of community groups, crofters, estate owners, foresters, conservationists, developers, tourism businesses, scientific experts and public sector bodies backing the bid, highlighting the extensive community support for it.

Building on the momentum of last August's International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) inspection visit, anticipation is mounting for this summer’s announcement of the bid's outcome, with comprehensive preparations already under way to capitalise on the global attention this will bring to Scotland.

Dr Steven Andrews the Flow Country World Heritage Project coordinator said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the minister to the Flow Country and to discuss how the area could play an integral part in Scotland’s just transition story following UNESCO World Heritage Site inscription.

“There is growing excitement across the region about the potential to create a wide spectrum of advantages for people living and working in Caithness and Sutherland by maximising the Flow Country’s environmental, economic and wellbeing benefits.

“Making the most of these has been a huge part of the bid process, so getting delivery right to realise that potential in the years ahead will be crucial.”

Environment Minister Gillian Martin said: “It is clear from my visit that the Flow Country World Heritage project has the potential to help not only Caithness and Sutherland, but Scotland as a whole.

"The most intact and extensive blanket bog system in the world, The Flow Country is the UK’s greatest resource against global climate change and consists of over 400,000 hectares of peatland across Caithness and northern Sutherland, and is home to some of Scotland’s rarest wildlife.

“Peatland restoration and protection is a critical part of Scotland’s response to the twin crises of climate change and nature loss and the Flow Country can provide a huge boost to our efforts.

“The enthusiasm of the local community for this project has shone through today. I commend all involved for getting the project to this point and I wish the team the best of luck in the rest of their journey.”

The Flow Country World Heritage bid has been brought forward by the Flow Country Partnership, which is a broad group representing a wide range of stakeholders in the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland.

Funding for the project is being provided by the Highland Council, NatureScot, RSPB and Wildland Limited.

If successful, the Flow Country will become Scotland’s only UNESCO World Heritage site inscribed for purely natural criteria.

A decision is expected in the middle of this year.


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