Issue 2: March 2012

SEARCHING FOR SCOTLAND'S 'GREEN GOLD' - A READER WRITES

By David Woodhouse, Owner, Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions

We have oil off our coasts, but the reality is that our oil cannot last and so it isn't a long term sustainable wealth creator for the country, is it?

So what is the government ‘Plan B” for, say, the Highlands and Islands? We should all we all be applying our minds to this here and now and not just as the oil reserves run dry.

There is also the fact that ever more people are thinking greener by the minute and it is surely only a matter of time before we see oil becoming too dirty a product to be involved with.

ever more people are thinking greener by the minute and it is surely only a matter of time before we see oil becoming too dirty a product to be involved with

Shouldn't the more visionary and caring thinkers among us be onto the massive potential that our 'Green Gold' offers us in these very environmentally aware times that we are living in. By 'Green Gold' I mean the country’s stupendous natural environment and not wind turbines!

Here on the Island of Mull we have a resident population of only 3,000 people, an insignificant number compared not just to the cities of the Central Belt but even when compared to the smaller towns of rural Scotland. What government can often overlook is the large numbers of tourists that come to places like Mull during the holiday season. Most of these are travelling here by car and spending millions of pounds on the way through the rest of Scotland to get to the West Coast and its magical islands. Tourism is one of Scotland's largest cash earners and is the industry with the biggest impact on general employment right across the expanse of the Highlands and Islands.

So why don't we hear more speeches from ministers on the massive value of tourism and its astronomical potential, not just now, but in the future as people have more leisure time?

Does the government support the Highlands and Islands having a dedicated Ecotourism Brochure and website which would surely look sensational based around the seasons of the year?

Do they support National Park Status for the Hebridean Islands, which would be one of the most visually stunning and romantic National Parks in the entire world?

Instead, each of the Islands that I can see from my home today is doing its own thing with no clear collaboration and collective battle plan to maximize the income of all the Islands. Winter days can be stunning, as they have been in recent weeks, yet I could drive the entire length of our National Scenic Area right now and not see one tourist, because the government and government agencies are not prepared to bring any focus to bear on the region in the off season.

I put this vision to Scottish Policy Now readers who, with a bit of luck, might just include Alex Salmond or his Ministers and advisers.

Let us suppose that we had a magnificent and jaw dropping Oceanic Centre on the West coast, something like the Eden Centre in Cornwall. A building that could be truly inspiring, with models of dolphins and whales; and in the rafters, children could build an eagles nest. From such a hub, visitors can go on sea trips or land based wildlife trips to different islands and localities. There could be the most inspiring conference centre in Europe where scientists and environmentalists give talks about our natural wonders. It could have a world renowned seafood restaurant and all of this employing and creating work for hundreds of people and sustaining businesses in the region.

As a National Park wouldn't it surely inspire the world’s imagination and bring many positives to the whole area?

Wouldn't it take the entire tourism economy more up market and improve the lives of all here?

The future for Shetland may be in its black and dirty gold but it is Scotland's Green Gold that holds the key to the future of this magnificent country. I want to encourage our decision makers to promote and protect it in a far more sensitive and visionary way for the benefit of everyone here and those who will come in the future.

By David Woodhouse, Owner, Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions

Issue 2: March 2012

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