Hydroelectricity and landscape protection in the Highlands of Scotland, 1919 - 1980
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This thesis employs twentieth-century hydroelectric development ventures in the Highlands of Scotland as a means of exploring conflicting demands of socio-economic development and landscape protection in cherished places. In Scotland, twentieth-century landscape protection ideals were founded upon a landscape aesthetic shaped by the principles and objectives of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Romanticism. The concept that the ‘natural’ world somehow existed separately from the world of humans, as a potential refuge from a rapidly industrialising European society, meant that the Romantic landscape aesthetic left little or no room for the incorporation of visible elements of industrialisation. This aesthetic has seen only limited change over time. As a result, satisfactory compromises between land-use and landscape protection have seldom been reached: a situation thrown into sharp relief by efforts to develop Highland water systems for the generation of hydroelectric energy during the period 1919 to 1980. The debate over hydroelectric development in the Highlands is instructive for a number of reasons, not least its parallels with the current focus on the placement of wind turbines in significant landscapes. Thanks to the Romantic legacy, attempts to modify landscapes as valued as those of the Highlands are fraught with complexity, even when development is undertaken in the interests of socio-economic enhancement. The thesis outlines the progression of both sides of the argument, assesses the significance of the compromises attempted and evaluates the lessons learned from nearly six decades of policymaking initiatives in this sphere. Core aesthetic ideals broadened, but did not change. Landscape protection progressed on the basis of protectionists’ ability to adjust the focus of their opposition; increased articulation of the idea of the collective ownership of important landscapes superseded the need to confront the viability of entrenched aesthetic orthodoxies.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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