Putting people at the heart of the countryside
Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone looks ahead to 2019.
When you think of rural Scotland, what springs to mind first? Diverse wildlife? Beautiful landscapes? Outdoor pursuits? Whatever it is for you, there’s one thing that I feel is often overlooked, and that’s the people who make our countryside what it is.
The land-based businesses that our members own and manage make a huge contribution to the nation, supporting the rural economy, communities and the environment.
Obviously, there are the thousands of jobs directly employed in the sector, from gardening to gamekeeping, and farming to forestry.
Then there are many trades, professions and suppliers who rely in turn on these businesses for their own incomes, such as mechanics, surveyors and animal feed producers.
And we must remember that these groups support wider communities and local public services, including schools, community hospitals and libraries.
None of this even touches on the hugely important visitor economy and all the jobs that rely on that.
Of course, to describe rural employment this way doesn’t do justice to how the communities are intertwined.
There’s a trend now for ‘portfolio careers’ or, in other words, having more than one job. Well, that’s something that rural workers are well used to and have been since time immemorial, with many doing different jobs depending on the season.
Having healthy populations of visitors, workers and visitors is also the foundation for caring for the natural environment too, with land-based businesses nurturing the habitats that provide homes for a multitude of important plant and animal species.
All of this isn’t as understood as well by the general public as we would like it to be. Perhaps we only have ourselves to blame. No-one else is going to tell that story for us.
So, my hope for 2019 is that we as a community can come out confidently and talk about how rural businesses are good for the people, economy and environment of Scotland.