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Lorraine Wakefield speaks to the Scotland coordinator for International Year of the Mountains, Andy Macpherson, to find out what the year will mean for the country's mountains and their future.

Scotland's mountains dominate the landscape and are an important part of the natural environment with mountainous terrain covering more than 70% of the entire country.

The United Nations has declared 2002 International Year of the Mountains and although Scotland's mountains pale in comparison to the great ranges elsewhere in the world they are of vital importance to the country.

Some people may wonder about the significance of declaring an International Year of the Mountains and whether it will have any practical benefits but Scotland coordinator for IYM Andy Macpherson hopes it can mark a new beginning in both practical and management terms.

A range of events have been organised to mark IYM in Scotland and will give people an opportunity to discover more about mountains as well as taking part in practical conservation work on the hills from footpath repairs to tree planting.

"There will be events that people can go along to like a mountain festival in Ballater in May organised by a small voluntary organisation the North East Mountain Trust and the Dundee Mountain Film Festival in November that has taken IYM as its theme," said Andy.

"We have got a few organisations that are offering ranger led walks, the kind of thing that would be taking place anyway but they will be focusing in on the theme of IYM. For example on Ben Lawers the National Trust for Scotland will be giving talks on various aspects of the mountains from mountain plants to people talking about their own love of the mountains.

"The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers Scotland are looking to organise a mass footpath repair event and that is definitely something for people to get involved in on the practical side.

"There are also things like the Torridon Mountain Heritage Weekend in October which is organised by the local community and already has many themes similar to IYM as it's all about sustainable living. There are lots of interesting things that weekend from walking to "stalking" with a camera."

IYM will also see Scotland host two major conferences on mountain issues with the third European Mountain Convention organised by Euromontana being held in Inverness in May and an international conference on "Nature and people: conservation and management in the mountains of northern Europe" organised by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Centre for Mountain Studies taking place in Pitlochry in November.

As well as practical activities it is also hoped the IYM can be used as the starting point for different mountain interests to work together towards the future in successfully managing mountain areas, which has not always happened in the past.

"On the whole rather than talk about problems if we don't do things properly we try to look at the solutions," explained Andy. "There is an awful lot going on in protecting Scotland's mountains and has been for years.

"For example there are classic things like conflict between sporting interests and outdoor recreation and what we are really keen to do is get these people talking the same language.

"It is a bit like the work of the Access Forum where we have people who at one time would not even have been under the same roof now getting together and that is the model we would like for this year.

"When we have our launch (on 4 February) there will be representatives from mountaineering, conservation, landowners, crofters, the Deer Commission etc.

"Because when it really comes down to it you can have townies like me that like mountaineering and have made a living out of conservation for years but when it comes to people who are genuinely trying to work and live in mountain areas so much of the time that is people who are engaged in farming, stalking and so on.

"With this whole idea of mountain people we are not just talking about Sherpas - mountain people in Scotland are a broad range of people with a broad range of interests, all of which deserve respect and all of whom have their own particular priority. We are hoping to bring them all into International Year of the Mountains.

"Sometimes I get asked what's the point of International Year of the Mountains? It is something that is supposed to bring enduring benefit. Its not just this year and that's the end of it and in order to do that we have to get people engaged in dialogue with each other and if you point to the solutions that gives people something to look forward to," he concluded.

More information about Scotland's International Year of the Mountains can be found on the website Andy is based at the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College, an academic partner of the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute.

For information about global events to mark IYM visit



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