MAKE no mistake, Boris Johnson is desperate to give the United States exactly what it wants when it comes to securing his new glittering trade deal. Rightly, much of the focus has been on whether this means opening the NHS to American market forces or allowing our food standards to drop to get cheap imports that will put Scottish farmers under enormous pressure.

Even the term Scotch whisky is under threat, if some reports are to be believed.

This trade-off of branding is only the latest episode in the commodification of Scotland. For example, the romanticised notion of a Scottish links golf course has already caused environmental damage in this country.

Donald Trump himself was behind the golf course built over Foveran Links in Aberdeenshire, listed as one of the most exceptional sand dune systems in the UK for scientific research and wildlife.

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Scottish Natural Heritage reported the site was “partially destroyed” with no prospect of recovery, but by that point it was too late.

When proposals for such developments are brought forward, we are told they would improve the environment, yet we can see that the opposite plays out.

The same claim was made about the proposed golf course at Coul Links in Sutherland. Like Foveran, this unusual wetland is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is a status which the Aberdeenshire site lost this year. No wonder Scottish Natural Heritage objected to Coul Links.

The loss of important wetland would have a significant environmental impact.

Highland Council officials recommended the development be rejected, but councillors voted to approve it. Then it was “called in” by the Scottish Government, with the Planning Minister citing “natural heritage issues”.

If there are natural heritage issues, if it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, then why on earth has this development not been rejected yet, some 18 months later?

If such designations are to actually mean something, then they should surely offer some protections to the site. They should mean more to a planning application than a tick-box exercise.

Like many parts of Scotland, Coul Links is a place of significance to its community. The fact such places are deemed fair game by developers is as much to do with Scotland’s historical relationship with its land as it is to do with our relationship with America.

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In other words, it has been going on a lot longer. After all, many of those with romantic notions of Scottish golf courses are descendants of those who used to populate the hills and glens.

Up to a fifth of our landmass is deliberately kept barren so a few people can enjoy shooting grouse. They, too, claim to improve the environment. Burning it, tearing it up with hill tracks and ridding it of wildlife is an odd way of improving the environment, especially when all that serves is the further killing of birds.

Research for the Revive coalition shows grouse shooting contributes less than 0.04% of our overall economy. That’s not much return for so much of our land.

Luxury golf courses are obviously preferable to barren grouse moors. They have a lower body count for a start. But they shouldn’t prevent a healthy, sustainable and productive landscape which works to benefit communities and wildlife. The proposal at Coul Links would do that.

Developments shouldn’t always be a poor trade-off between consumerism and nature. It has been traditional to think that development and the environment have competing interests, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sustainability has to be top of the agenda when considering how we improve our landscape, but to do that we need to take on the vested interests that stand in the way of that. The arguments about how grouse shooting is good for the environment, for example, need to be debunked.

The shooting lobby argues that the steps gamekeepers take to keep grouse populations artificially high – namely the killing of predators and the burning of heather – helps bolster biodiversity. Destruction for wildlife is a ridiculous argument. Think what else that land could be used for.

Currently, grouse moors with high peat content are burnt to clear heather, even though peat is vital for storing carbon. Where they are not peatlands, they could be covered in that other great carbon store – forests.

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Our Scottish Green New Deal would reforest Scotland to the European average – and that isn’t just about meeting emissions targets, it’s also about the rural economy.

Research for the Revive coalition shows that forestry can provide a job per every 42 hectares, compared to one job every 330 hectares for grouse shooting or one every 183 hectares for agriculture.

That’s why reforestation can bring new life to areas of rural Scotland that are too often treated like visitor attractions rather than real communities.