THE campaign to secure World Heritage Site status for Scotland’s Flow Country has entered a new phase with the formal submission of the formal nomination dossier to Unesco.

A copy of the complete 250-page dossier and accompanying draft management plan, which makes the in-depth case for designating the 190,000-hectare north Scotland site as the world’s first peatland World Heritage Site, was hand-delivered in Westminster by Dr Steven Andrews, the Flow Country Partnership’s project coordinator.

The document was received at Parliament by Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson, and then submitted formally to Unesco by Laura Davies, the UK’s ambassador to the organisation.

The milestone triggers the next steps in the bid process, which will see inspection visits to the region by Unesco officials during 2023 enabling a decision on whether to award the accolade of World Heritage Site status taken next year.

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If the bid succeeds, it will ensure the continued protection and conservation of the Caithness and Sutherland peatlands that store some 400 million tonnes of carbon.

It will continue to actively draw down CO2 from the atmosphere for generations and create new economic and cultural opportunities for the area’s rural communities.

Andrews, who coordinated the dossier for the Flow Country Partnership, a collaboration that includes Highland Council, NatureScot, RSPB Scotland, UHI and Wildland Limited said:“A vast amount of work has gone into getting the nomination dossier prepared for delivery to Unesco in Paris.

“We are hugely grateful to both the UK Government and also the Scottish Government for the support they have provided in helping us reach this important milestone.

“We look forward to continuing to work with them, as well as with the communities across the Flow Country, to bring the bid home successfully in the next 18 months.”

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, UK Minister for Arts & Heritage, said: “Scotland’s stunning and ancient Flow Country landscape offers breathtaking views and is hugely important for protecting against climate change.

“It would be a worthy recipient of UNESCO World Heritage Site status and the UK Government is supporting the push for this international recognition to help ensure that the area is preserved for future generations.”

Environment and Land ReformMinister Mairi McAllan said: “Scotland’s peatlands are iconic and an integral part of Scotland’s cultural and natural heritage.

“In good condition, they also play a vital part in our response to the climate and nature emergencies, and our ambitious targets to be net zero by 2045. Peatlands do all of this whilst reducing the risk of flooding and providing a natural filter to improve drinking water quality. That’s why the Scottish Government is so passionate about peat and are investing £250m to restore 250,000 hectares of peatlands over a 10-year period to 2030.

“The Flow Country achieving Unesco World Heritage Site status would help give us an international platform to promote the natural beauty of Scotland’s landscape, and the importance of restoring and protecting it.” And I wish the best of luck to all working on this important bid.”

The Flow Country World Heritage bid has been brought forward by the Flow Country Partnership (formerly the Peatland Partnership) which is a broad group representing a wide range of stakeholders in the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland.

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Funding for the project is being provided by the Highland Council, NatureScot, RSPB and Wildland Limited. If successful, the Flow Country will become Scotland’s first World Heritage site inscribed for purely natural criteria, and only the third (for natural criteria) in the UK. It would also be the first peatland site inscribed on the World Heritage list.

The peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland only became known as ‘The Flow Country’ when the Nature Conservancy surveyors began to examine the area in the 1950’s. ‘Flow’ is a term used in the north for any flat, deep and wet bog, and is derived from the Old Norse word floi, which in turn means wet or marshy.

The Flow Country has never had a defined boundary, it most loosely takes in much of Caithness and northern Sutherland, but if the world heritage bid is successful it would most certainly be put on the map globally.

The bid, which comprises an extensive nomination dossier and management plan has been submitted to UNESCO by the UK Government (DCMS) and following a site visit the outcome will be decided in mid-2024.