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A green gold rush? Natural capital investments and implications for communities in the Scottish uplands

   School of Geosciences

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  Dr Janet Fisher, Prof Marc Metzger  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Billions of pounds of investment is poised to pour into uplands natural capital projects in Scotland as a result of private and public sector investment in net zero carbon emissions and comparable biodiversity offsets and investment. This is already strongly influencing the land market and is likely to challenge, and potentially reverse, many historic and existing imperatives for uplands management. In Scotland, these new investments will layer onto a highly inequitable distribution of land (Wightman, 1999), and be superimposed onto the backdrop of contested decision making and outright land use conflicts which characterise the uplands (St John et al. 2019). In recognition of this inequitable distribution and historic and contemporary alienation from land, various recent initiatives in Scottish public life have sought to democratise land use planning and improve the scope for productive engagement between communities and land. Into these divergent currents, then, the implications, costs and benefits for community interests of this new and rapid influx of finance becomes highly unpredictable. There are also likely to be differentiated implications for those with varied land holding sizes, and those holding different rights, for instance, community land owners, tenants and private landowners. These groups will have different capacities to engage with new streams of funding, and to derive benefits from them; similarly other impacts are likely to be differentiated. Although this natural capital boom evidently presents enormous opportunities, the scale of attendant uncertainty and concern about potential implications has led the Scottish Government to publish ‘Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital’. These attempt to pre-empt and mitigate concerns and challenges, both for the environmental and social integrity of natural capital investments. Considering these elements will enable natural capital investments to be sustainable and with high longevity. This PhD takes these new developments in uplands natural capital investments as its focus, and examines the social and community dimensions of them. 


Burton, V., M. J. Metzger, C. Brown & D. Moseley (2019) Green Gold to Wild Woodlands; understanding stakeholder visions for woodland expansion in Scotland. Landscape Ecology, 34, 1693-1713.
Raymond, C. M., J. O. Kenter, T. Plieninger, N. J. Turner & K. A. Alexander (2014) Comparing instrumental and deliberative paradigms underpinning the assessment of social values for cultural ecosystem services. Ecological Economics, 107, 145-156.
Reed, M. S., K. Arblaster, C. Bullock, R. J. F. Burton, A. L. Davies, J. Holden, K. Hubacek, R. May, J. Mitchley, J. Morris, D. Nainggolan, C. Potter, C. H. Quinn, V. Swales & S. Thorp (2009) Using scenarios to explore UK upland futures. Futures, 41, 619-630.
Reed, M. S (2022) Stakeholder analysis. Report for project: Natural Capital - Galvanising Change. Funded by RESAS through the Scottish Government's Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027.
St John, F. A. V., et al. (2019) Value diversity and conservation conflict: Lessons from the management of red grouse and hen harriers in England. People and Nature, 1, 6-17.
Wightman, A. 1999. Scotland: land and power. An agenda for land reform Edinburgh: Luath.

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