Peter Cairns • Scotland: The Big Picture

Scotland: The Big Picture is a team of photographers and filmmakers creating high-impact communications to ignite fresh thinking around the benefits of a wilder Scotland. In the first of a two-part feature, Peter Cairns makes the case for an ecologically richer landscape

Like many of you reading this, I have stood at The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye and seen people – photographers and non-photographers – marvel at the view. And it is one hell of a view. This is the idealised Scotland, the clichéd Scotland celebrated in tourist brochures. It is a view that symbolises for most people what Scotland looks like, what Scotland should look like. This view, and many others across the Scottish Highlands, is held up as an icon of an untamed, nature-rich country, but this belies a hidden truth which few people see simply because they are not conditioned to look. In reality, The Quiraing is a museum piece; it is a geological wonder surrounded by an ecological desert. A desert that has long been stripped of the natural woodlands and vegetation which would once have cloaked its slopes. As such, it is devoid of the myriad species that fuel natural processes such as birth, death, decay and regeneration – the processes that drive healthy living systems.

When we look at postcard views of Scotland – and The Quiraing is a true classic – we are conditioned to perceive a land that is wild. In it we find sanctuary, a connection with nature. But if we look, and I mean really look, we see something very different. We see a Scotland that ecologically speaking is massively impoverished. In fact, Britain as a whole is one of the most ecologically depleted nations on Earth. All of our large carnivores have gone, most of our large herbivores have gone and, in many places, even in our wildest, most heavily protected areas, our natural ecosystems have almost ceased to function. The Quiraing and many others like it are landscapes in arrested development. They might look healthy to our untrained eyes but, in truth, the ...

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About Author

Peter Cairns

Based in the heart of the Cairngorms, Peter Cairns is an award-winning nature photographer with over 10 years’ professional experience under his belt. He is a founding director of The Wild Media Foundation, the social enterprise behind the 2020VISION multimedia project.

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