Past in the present: history, policy and the Scottish landscape
Govan, Sarah Margaret
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History matters. It helps us understand where we have come from, where we are now and how we might choose to move forward. Landscape also matters, but the past is often presented as something separate from everyday life and the landscapes in which we live and work today. This research examines the official discourse of landscape in Scotland in order to understand how landscape as a whole is characterised, and identify the extent to which the historic dimension is addressed in institutional discourse in Scotland. By focusing on language, I analyse the assumptions embedded in the discussion of landscape in order to understand the significance afforded to the historic dimension. Official institutions in Scotland, including government and incorporated third sector bodies have contributed to the landscape discourse directly and indirectly. This research addresses a particular knowledge gap on how this discourse specifically addresses the historic dimension of landscape. Using discourse analysis and semi-structured interviews, this research examines how the concept of landscape is characterised in Scottish institutional discourse and explores the extent to which a historic dimension is recognised and addressed. It considers landscape is presented as the result of a dynamic and continuous process of complex interactions between people and their place over time, and the implications for its understanding and management. Three strands of public policy are examined (including landscapes, the historic environment and broader governance) for the extent to which this historic dimension can be detected in the meanings applied to ‘landscape’. It is focused on the combination of people and place in time and the extent to which these three factors are reflected in the literature. The research detects ambiguity in the institutional norms, with a discernible distinction between human as ‘receiver’, experiencing and perceiving landscape, and human as ‘agent’, in a dynamic relationship with a habitat. The analysis shows how this impacts on cross-sectoral and inter-disciplinary dialogue, the parallel use of ‘place’ and our wider sense of being in the world and being ‘in time’. Overall, this thesis concludes that the term ‘landscape’ means different things to different people and this prevents effective communication on the different dimensions of landscape, and their relative value to society. In characterising landscape, Scottish institutional discourse conveys a broad sense of meaning. It recognises the difference between people as perceiver, and the entity which is being perceived and which is largely captured as scenery, countryside or natural beauty. But this characterisation does not significantly capture the essence of time and the constant processes of continuity and change. The historic dimension is only partially addressed in the discourse, mainly through implicit and ambiguous language that obscures its potential value for how we might understand and better manage an essential and highly valued resource. This research found that the historic dimension is not meaningfully addressed beyond reference to particular individual features. Landscape is conceived largely as a natural entity of scenic value that people can experience and enjoy, but with little reference to a its continuous evolution through time.