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The present-day diversity of our landscapes is obviously a result of past change, natural and human-induced, planned and unplanned. Some significant past changes have been relatively sudden, such as those brought about by large-scale afforestation, hydro-power or quarrying developments. Others have been more gradual, including the gradual loss of trees and woodland, and the associated complex losses of shelter, moisture retention, biodiversity and biological productivity, from apparently wild places (Macdonald, 2004).

Forces for change within each landscape type are varied, and changes may be inter-related. For example, a decline in stock farming on the hills may be associated with abandonment of hill grazing areas, neglect of drystone dykes and dereliction of buildings. The most severe impact on landscape character is driven by the following forces for change:

In agriculture – loss of agricultural land to other uses; changes in hill farming; neglect or loss of hedgerows (including hedgerow trees); neglect of drystone dykes; conversion of steadings; and inappropriate use of post and wire fencing.

In forestry – new coniferous afforestation; planting of open/wild/moorland; neglect or decline of woodland and shelterbelts; and maturity or decline of woodland and trees (Tyldesley, 1999).

The National Countryside Monitoring Scheme of SNH has shown that landscape change has been a feature of all agricultural contexts in Scotland since 1945:

  • arable production has reduced in the west and north and intensified in the east
  • significant areas of rough grazings have gone under forestry
  • crofting systems have become increasingly based on sheep (Birnie et al., 2004).

Current changes which have provoked debate are the loss of aesthetic quality and amenity due to the insensitive siting of structures such as windfarms and communication masts and their infrastructure in areas of high value in terms of landscape and tranquil recreation (Macdonald, 2004). However, a MORI survey carried out in March 2003 showed that those people who lived closest to windfarms tended to be most positive about them and most supportive of expansion (Braunholtz, 2003; Warren et al., 2005))

In the future, farmers are not only expected to give us agricultural produce but also access to recreation opportunities in the countryside; to maintain and enhance Scotland's diverse landscapes, wildlife and biodiversity, and to act as stewards of our wider natural resources. The quality of the Scottish environment and the scenic character of the landscape could become the greatest marketing assets of the agriculture industry (SNH, 2005).

It is widely anticipated that the introduction of the Single Farm Payment and other policy changes will have significant impacts on agricultural activities, and hence on future land use patterns in rural Scotland . These impacts will result in both broader regional changes, e.g. regional shifts of specific production systems such as cattle moving from the north-west to the east of Scotland , and specific changes at a farm scale. Such changes in land use patterns could have a strong visual impact which may, in turn, impact upon public and other stakeholder preferences for the rural landscape in Scotland (Schwarz et al., 2005)

Farmers are increasingly expected to act as stewards of natural resources by maintaining landscape, wildlife and biodiversity. Future trends indicate continued restructuring and intensification in the east, and possible extensification of hill and upland systems in the west and north (Birnie et al., 2004)



  • Birnie , R., Dennis, P., Dunn, S., Edwards, A., Horne, P., Hill, G., Hulme, P., Paterson, E., Langan, S. and Wynn, G. (2004): Review of Recent UK and European Research Regarding Reduction, Regulation and Control of the Environmental Impacts of Agriculture;
  • Braunholtz, S. (2003): Public Attitudes to Windfarms. A Survey of local Residents in Scotland . Scottish Executive Social Research; External Website
  • Countryside Survey 2000 : External Website
  • CSA (2005): Archaeology and Farming – Historic Landscapes. Advice Note 33; External Website
  • Finnie, R. (2005): Written answer to a question from Alex Neil, Tuesday 29 March 2005 ; External Website
  • Historic Scotland External Website
  • Macdonald, Patricia (2004): The state of Scotland 's landscapes: living places or eroding assets? In: SNH 2004, pp 6-10
  • NFUS 2003 : Farming and the Countryside; External Website
  • Ritchie, A. (2003): Farming since medieval times. Information leaflet, Historic Scotland; External Website
  • Schwarz, G. ; Messager Belveze, P.; Miller, D.; Fidalgo, B. and Pinto, L. (2005): Visualisation of changes in landscape under CAP reform: Linking CAP analysis, visualisation tools and public and stakeholder preferences. Abstract submitted to: 79 th Agricultural Economics Society Annual Conference; External Website
  • SNH (2002): Natural heritage futures – an overview; External Website
  • SNH (2003): Scotland 's future landscapes? Discussion paper; External Website
  • SNH (2004): Scotland 's future landscapes? Moving the debate forward. Report of seminar 16 th September 2004 ; External Website
  • SNH (2005): AGRICULTURE AND THE NATURAL HERITAGE – SOME ISSUES AND CHALLENGES FOR SCOTLAND AND THE EU; Agriculture in Europe seminar during 'Scotland Week', Scotland House, Brussels ; External Website
  • SNH Landscape : External Website
  • Thomson, J. (2004): Building a programme of action for Scotland 's landscapes – some thoughts. In: SNH 2004, pp 22-24
  • Tyldesley, D. and Associates (1999): Landscape Character Vignettes. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report F99NB07; External Website
  • Warren, C.R . Lumsdon, C., O’Dowd, S. and Birnie R.V. (2005) ‘Green on Green’:Public Perceptions of Wind Power in Scotland and Ireland . J. of Environmental Planning and Management, Vol. 48 No.6, 853-875.

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