MEMO FROM: Dietrich Schmidt
MEMO FROM: Dietrich Schmidt (Deutsche Okologischeinstittut)
DATE: August 1995
I read in a tourist guide that the Scottish Highlands are "one of the last unspoilt areas of Europe", so I decided that I must come to Scotland to visit this marvellous area. Before leaving home I checked in my book to see where the National Parks were, so that I might identify those areas that you Scots cherish the most, but could find no reference. I assumed this must be a misprint, but my book did tell me that Rannoch Moor and Glencoe were one of your finest areas, so I decided to visit them.
I talked to many people on my visit and did find a copy of your august journal in one shop. I did not understand much of what it was saying but I noted much discussion about Glencoe was taking place, especially concerning this Scottish National Trust. I did talk to some staff of this organisation, and they seemed to understand the issues, but your whole debate appears to be missing the main point. So I thought I would send you this short note. I will describe what I saw.
I will start with the village of Tyndrum: do you Scots have no sense of the vernacular, or historical continuity? I will quickly leave this place, and continue the road north. On one side commercial forestry plantations, on the other degraded hill slopes. I hoped soon to leave this devastated landscape, and arrive at the unspoilt Glencoe. But as I drove through Bridge of Orchy, there on my right above the railway were the new plough lines of forestry development, and further on more new fencing and digging on the slopes up to Rannoch Moor itself. This did not bode well. What trees were being planted here, and why did the planting include areas of deep peat (have you Scots never heard of the greenhouse effect?) How will the fences and planting fit in to this sensitive landscape?
Along the main road itself were ugly car parks, and recent deep ditching and grading, with inappropriate mineral soil being put back on the peat - this will never blend in. There were more plantations of non-indigenous trees on the moor itself, and at your Kingshouse Hotel there were unsympathetic plantations, together with horrific modern bungalows - an echo of Tyndrum. Before that, in the heart of the moor itself, was a ski centre, associated signs, buildings, museum, car park - and a sorry attempt at landscaping with some woodland planting involving deep, straight plough lines!
Next was a ramshackle hut (Jakson Ville I was told) underneath your Buchel Etive, which itself was scarred by your climber's paths. Lower down the valley were sheep, far too many sheep who grazed the landscape to a bone and were giving your indigenous woodland remnants no chance to recover. At the bottom were too many tents surrounding a public house, itself a mix of buildings of no coherent design. After this, I noticed a small visitor centre and car park, an unsightly track going up a side-valley, and then I was driving once more in a landscape dominated by your non-indigenous conifer plantations.
Your petty squabbles about Glencoe seem to me to be "fiddling while Rome burns", and the evidence of my own eyes convinces me that you in Scotland do not really care about your country. Instead of fighting amongst yourselves (reminiscent of your old clan systems), should you not be getting together before it is too late? We Germans had to fight your battle on behalf of the Brent Spar, and it seems we may have to fight on behalf of your countryside. When will you all wake up?
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