Stuart Benn, RSPB Conservation Manager, on the Year of Natural Scotland.

How do you see us?

It’s been the usual series of highs and lows with Scottish sport in the last couple of weeks – our women curlers were crowned world champions and Andy Murray ground it out in the Miami heat to become the second best tennis player on earth.  But the national football team continued their slide into the lower regions of the FIFA rankings and we now sit below the Cape Verde Islands and Jordan (the country, though given our recent form, Katie Price would have had a decent chance of beating us too). 

So, as ever with Scotland, it’s been a mixed bag and these sports stories will no doubt help shape people’s opinions about us just as they do with other countries (think Brazil and football or New Zealand and the All Blacks).   But those opinions are formed through all sorts of other things too including the natural environment (Brazil - Amazon rainforest , New Zealand – kiwi) and two recent initiatives are asking us to think about Scotland’s nature just a little bit differently.

Golden eagle talons

2013 has been designated The Year of Natural Scotland , a celebration of our scenery and wildlife, and the Big 5 have just been announced.  These are five of the most iconic Scottish species – golden eagle, otter, red squirrel, red deer, harbour seal - and they will be the focus of efforts to inspire people to get out and see Scotland’s wildlife for themselves.  We might think that the RSPB would just concentrate on eagles and the other birds but not so – a huge range of animals, insects, plants and the like benefit from our activities and we want to tell people about and involve them with this work too. 

I guess that we will all have our own ideas on what these species and any other aspect of Scottish nature means to us, shaped by our own experiences and what we’ve read or heard.  But have you ever thought of expressing them in a different way because this is what we are being asked to do through Imagining Natural Scotland.  The idea behind this is to form collaborations between science and the creative arts to highlight Scotland’s natural environment and wildlife, and come up with projects to showcase them in ways that go beyond what we might expect.  And there’s possibly money available too! 

Any regular readers of my blog will know that I’m fascinated by the connections between nature, music and art (for example here, here, here and here) so I think this is a great opportunity and I would love to get involved in a joint Imagining Natural Scotland project.  If anyone is interested then please get in touch with me at  Look forward to hearing your exciting ideas!