Understanding similarities and differences in land use visions for Scotland
Valluri-Nitsch, Christiane Katharina Frederike
The successful transition towards a global society that can live within planetary boundaries is one of the greatest challenges for the twenty-first century. Sustainable land use and land management will be essential to ensure the continued delivery of the ecosystem goods and services needed to support a rapidly growing global population. To support the transition towards sustainable development, decision-makers need to better understand how land use change affects people and the environment. However, these insights are of limited use without societal agreement on future land uses. Understanding synergies and differences between land use visions forms a first step in assessing and comparing alternative pathways towards a sustainable future. This thesis uses a range of methods to understand visions of future land use amongst professional land use stakeholders, society at large, and young people in Scotland. Twenty semi-structured interviews were held with policy experts from the Scottish land use sectors. A nationwide statistically representative web-based survey provided insight into the visions of the Scottish population. And finally, a novel visual interview methodology was used to interview 26 pupils from two high schools in Perthshire. Inductive content analysis and descriptive statistics were used to analyse the results and understand and compare the land use visions of these different groups. As expected, different groups had different visions of future land use. There was, however, general agreement on certain themes, in particular the desire for a more sustainable lifestyle and the importance of a healthy environment. The sectoral stakeholders would like to see more partnerships, dialogue and collaboration; a society that is more engaged and aware about land use; resilient local economies; and short-, medium-, and long-term policies that help to achieve these goals. One of the key challenges for these groups will be how to translate abstract concepts such as ‘healthy ecosystem’ and ‘dialogue and partnerships’ into practice. This clearly requires a shared understanding of what a ‘healthy ecosystem’ means to different stakeholders, as well as appreciation of what true dialogue means and how this can be used to co-create solutions – potentially a radical change from the traditional top-down approaches. The research also identified divisions in Scottish society between those who want to continue a ‘status quo’ lifestyle, and those – in particular younger people (who spent time in the natural environment, through either school or home life) and those from a higher socio-economic background – who want a more sustainable lifestyle and to be more connected with the natural environment. These results are important, as policy makers need to be able to identify the factors that have successfully engaged certain groups and to promote these factors. Programmes that provide access to the natural environment (such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award) need to ensure equal opportunities by targeting disadvantaged groups. Simultaneously, it needs to be explored how to encourage those who would like to continue a ‘status quo’ lifestyle into a more sustainable one. Past research has shown how preferences can be influenced and how changes can be initiated by incentives and restrictions in order to promote desired behaviours. The power of the media should be leveraged: programmes such as BBC’s ‘Blue Planet’ highlight how our lifestyle choices impact on the natural environment and can provide the motivation for change. The current issues surrounding Brexit and Climate Change require a national conversation; using methods such as those presented in the thesis to elicit land use visions can help identify the commonalties and differences between stakeholders’ views. This can provide a starting point for dialogue and critical reflection on current instruments and objectives, and how they might be adapted to better reflect Scottish preferences and conditions.