Flow Country regeneration ‘could be worth £400m to far north’

John o’Groat Journal & Caithness Courier – Alan Hendry

Flow Country regeneration could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the far north economy and create more than 200 jobs over the next 18 years, a new report has claimed.

The study was commissioned by the Flow Country Partnership and North Highland Initiative (NHI), funded by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, to measure the economic impact and business potential of peatland restoration in Caithness and Sutherland.

It calculates that the economic impact could reach £400 million for the local area by 2042 – and suggests that widening access to allow smaller-scale farmers and crofters to sell carbon credits could allow a further £1.4 billion to £4.2bn to be achieved over the course of a century.

This, it says, represents substantial investment into the region’s ecological future as well as offering prospects for job creation.

The report, The Economic Impact and Business Potential of Peatland Restoration, was undertaken by 4c Engineering with support from NatureScot, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and others.

Covering some 400,000 hectares, the Flow Country is the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe, storing an estimated 400 million tons of carbon – twice as much as all the UK’s woodlands combined. An estimated 45 per cent of this peatland area is said to require restoration.

Regeneration of this could lead to the employment of 241 people over 18 years while facilitating spin-off businesses, the study says.

In addition, healthy peatland also supports biodiversity, flood prevention and drought and wildfire mitigation, as well as improved water quality.

Businesses identified as being reliant on peatland include whisky and fishing, while tourism, education and research are considered as spin-off or related industries.

NHI chairperson Genevieve Duhigg said: “It is hard to overstate the importance of the uniquely valuable and vulnerable qualities of the Flow Country. Its preservation and responsible management is crucial to the success of so many endangered species, while developing opportunities for the people who live and work here is vital to the success of rural communities.

“Above all, restoring and preserving this hugely important carbon sink is crucial to preventing climate change.