Scotland's Flow Country focus of Unesco World Heritage bid

By Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

image copyrightLorne Gill/SNH
image captionA new website could be dedicated to the peatland

Unesco World Heritage status is to be sought for Europe's biggest blanket bog.

Called the Flow Country, the area stretches across Caithness and Sutherland.

The 494,210-acre (200,000ha) expanse of peatbog, lochs and bog pools is more than twice the size of Orkney.

A working group has been set up with the aim of securing UK government approval for an application to Unesco for the designation.

Public consultation on the bid is to be held early next year.

Communities living in and on the fringes of the Flow Country, including Thurso, are be asked for their views.

What is the Flow Country?

image copyrightLorne Gill/SNH
  • Bogs in the tundra-like landscape have been growing since the end of the last Ice Age more than 10,000 years ago
  • The area's peat is up to 10m (33ft) deep
  • Its soil stores about 100 million tonnes of carbon
  • People live and work in the Flow Country and its communities include tiny Forsinard
  • Wildlife found in the area include otters, deer and common scoter ducks. In the UK, common scoters breed at only a few locations in the Flow Country and lochs in the hills and glens near Inverness

Six of the UK's 31 World Heritage sites are in Scotland.

They are the Antonine Wall, Heart of Neolithic Orkney, New Lanark, the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh, St Kilda and the Forth Bridge.

A wide range of organisations are involved in the Flow Country Unesco bid and include Scottish Natural Heritage, University of Highlands and Islands (UHI), Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Highland Council, RSPB Scotland and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

CVS North, Wildland, VisitScotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Confederation of Forest Industries, Forestry Commission Scotland and Rural Payment and Inspection Division are also involved.

image copyrightAndy Hay/RSPB Images
image captionDucklings of the common scoter duck, a bird found in the Flow Country

David Richardson, of the FSB, said: "The Flow Country is of international significance and yet it remains one of our best kept secrets.

"Giving it World Heritage Site status will protect what matters to us all environmentally, while preserving traditional land-uses and opening up a whole new range of the sensitive, compatible and sustainable business opportunities that are so essential to preserving our fragile communities."

UHI's Roxanne Andersen added: "The Flow Country peatlands are not only spectacular and unique in their extent and characteristics, they also support world-class research that has the potential to improve the management of all peatlands, globally."

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