Scottish land reform and the idea of 'outdoors'

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This paper explores political and phenomenological aspects of landscape through an ethnographic study of new access rights in Scotland. Drawing on a Nordic tradition of common access rights, the recent legislation in Scotland takes a radical approach to landscape by providing access to Scotland's outdoors in its entirety. Olwig's descriptions of ‘customary’ and ‘natural’ landscape law provide a basis for identifying the intentions of those involved in the access agenda in inculcating a national sense of an accessible landscape. But ethnographic evidence, beginning with the premise of moving subjects rather than static viewers of landscape, shows that the continuing divisions between higher ground and lower ground access issues are based on the qualities of walking that combine gesture, confidence, and features in the landscape. The political landscape thus comes into being through the progression of footsteps of those on the ground as much as through discourse in legislative centres.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-146
Number of pages26
Issue number1
Early online date12 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • landscape
  • Scotland
  • walking
  • politics
  • gesture


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