Conservation Bill is objectionable
In supporting the introduction of the proposed
Nature Conservation Bill, Dr Jones of Nethybridge (letter
2 May) makes two points, both of which are justifiable in
themselves but neither of which is a reason for the effective
nationalisation of land, which is what this Bill amounts to.
First, Dr Jones is quite right to say that
the sites covered by conservation designations are important.
Secondly, it is true that absentee landowners, particularly
institutional ones like the Eagle Star insurance company,
generally have objectives that are essentially financial and
therefore at variance with people-centred, or even wildlife-centred,
administration of the countryside.
But neither point amounts to a justification
for a takeover by the state of private land, much less a takeover
by that outdated monolith, SNH (known to an increasing number
of its customers as See! No Hedgehogs).
There are two basic objections to this Bill.
First, the number of delinquent private resident landowners
and managers is tiny by comparison with the total number of
residents, most of whom are smallish farmers, crofters or
amateur sportsmen who manage their ground successfully and
sympathetically. All owners are different. That is what gives
Scottish land management its diversity, which is exactly what
State management through the agency of SNH
would impose a uniform, centralising approach which would
be as disastrous in its way as Soviet agriculture was in its
way. Both are as outdated as institutional absenteeism ought
to be. The future lies with the management of natural diversity
through human diversity.
The second point is that good
management is a matter of taste and fashion. One century it
is deer; the next it is capercaillie; next it might be the
sand lizard, toads or even the endemic western isles hedgehog
(Erinaceus europaeus absurdus).
Who knows? The only certain fact about centralised administration
of anything is that it is homogenised, and therefore dull,
static and, in this context, political. Nature needs none