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Title: A conflict with wings : understanding the narratives, relationships and hierarchies of conflicts over raptor conservation and grouse shooting in Scotland
Author: Hodgson, Isla Dawn
ISNI:       0000 0004 7961 2500
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2018
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Disagreements over wild species and the management of natural resources are inevitable. However, they often serve as proxies for less visible, deep-rooted social and political conflicts that occur between multiple groups of human actors. Such issues can considerably hinder the objectives of conservation and sustainable environmental management, by damaging relationships and trust among stakeholders, influencing their perceptions of the situation and shaping their actions towards the species and/or its management. However, a common problem is that these more complex dimensions go unacknowledged and unaddressed. The seemingly intractable nature of such situations, combined with a limited understanding of the deeper-seated issues that cause them, often causes practitioners to favour short term technical or legislative approaches to conflict management that focus primarily on alleviating the negative impacts of species on humans, or vice versa. Yet a growing body of literature suggests that failure to recognise and confront these underlying socio-political elements only causes conflicts to persist and worsen. In Scotland, a current long-standing conflict exists around the interests of raptor conservation and driven grouse shooting. The situation is highly contentious; actors have become polarised and arguments over key issues, such as the illegal killing of raptor species, are embedded within wider socio-political issues that consider land ownership, governance, and positions of authority. Despite multiple technical and legislative measures, evidence suggests the illegal killing of raptors is ongoing and the fractured relationships among stakeholders have stalled efforts at negotiation and collaboration. However, little scholarly work has studied these relationships and the issues that shape them. This thesis aims to contribute to the understanding of stakeholder interactions, and the deeper-rooted social and political elements that influence how stakeholders perceive the situation and one another. To do so, I take a social science perspective, drawing on theoretical frames and methodologies from several disciplines to provide an in-depth examination of aspects of a conservation conflict that, up until now, have received relatively little attention. In a more global context, this thesis contributes to the burgeoning literature relating to the social and political dimensions of conservation conflicts. Although the scope of research into the human dimensions of conservation has expanded substantially in the last decade, there remains significant gaps in our knowledge of such situations. One such gap relates to the perspectives of conservationists, or species 'advocates'. Previous research has largely focussed on the views of stakeholders who are seemingly opposed to the objectives of conservation. However if conservation conflicts are to be understood as inherently socio-political issues among people - with strongly-held, often divergent views and values - then we cannot ignore conservation advocates as influential actors, with integral roles within the conflict that must also be understood. The research presented therefore investigates a diverse array of perspectives, ranging from those of actors with predominantly conservation interests, to those more orientated towards field sports and rural land use. The second concerns the exploration of the different levels of actors involved in conservation conflicts; the differences and interactions within and between the institutional, national level and regional, local stakeholders. This thesis therefore focuses on the inter- and intra-group dynamics among these levels, and is split into two parts. Chapters 2 & 3 investigate the conflict at a national level, using discourse analysis to examine the interactions between non-governmental organisations and state bodies. A critical finding is that institutional level actors contest discursively, communicating often divergent interpretations of key issues and scientific research to advance their own position. Chapters 4 & 5 then explore the relationships and narratives of local-level stakeholders through semi-structured interviews, and explore the connections between this and the institutional level. Analysis revealed themes of power, representation, and trust that influenced inter- and intra-group dynamics. An important finding was that local stakeholders often felt powerless and under-represented in decision making processes, suggesting that institutionalised discourses - which did not necessarily reflect local perspectives - were dominating discussions surrounding conflict management and preventing constructive dialogue. Chapters 5 & 6 discuss the implications of our findings for conflict management and use this understanding to make suggestions of strategies that are of higher relevance to the important socio-political dimensions of conflicts, and are better aligned with the perspectives and needs of local stakeholders. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that a major barrier to the management of raptor-grouse conflict concerns the relationships of the actors involved - particularly those between actors at the national and local levels. I therefore suggest that multiple management interventions at different levels are required as part of a longer-term, evolutionary process, aiming to develop a better environment in which to hold discussions about not just raptors, but wider issues of land ownership and governance in Scotland. These findings are then placed in a more global context, with suggestions made as to how a broader perspective orientated towards the relationships among actors may be translated to different conservation conflicts in other parts of the world.
Supervisor: Radpath, Stephen ; Fischer, Anke ; Young, Juliette C. Sponsor: Macaulay Development Trust ; University of Aberdeen (Ephinstone Scholarship)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Birds of prey ; Grouse shooting ; Wildlife conservation