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Building the Intertidal Commons

Isle of Skye

Starting in September 2021, we began collaborating with CLIMAVORE on their project on the Isles of Skye and Rassay. This project ‘sets out to envision seasons of food production and consumption that react to man-induced climatic events and landscape alterations’. Our ongoing research supports the co-design and development of a Public-Common Partnership to further embed and expand the Climavore approach, helping to develop more speculative and longer-term approaches to the development of innovative models for the democratic economy in rural contexts. 

Acknowledging the fundamentally extractive and ecologically destructive role of industrial salmon farming (a major employer in Scottish coastal communities), CLIMAVORE set out to develop ‘low-investment and cost-effective approach to transition from damaging forms of intensive aquaculture into regenerative forms of aquaculture’. These alternatives were imagined as providing new forms of employment to coastal communities, strengthening a secure food supply chain, regenerating ecologically degraded marine ecosystems, and building the democratic economic control of local resources to underpin local development. 

CLIMAVORE successfully established the UK’s first intertidal polyculture farm that could simultaneously function as a ‘biofiltering’ system. Along with providing a new source of seafood utilised in the local food economy, they also demonstrated the viability of producing terrazzo tiles using the byproducts of crushed oyster and mussel shells. CLIMAVORE also embedded various pedagogical initiatives throughout the process, such as a collaboration with local restaurateurs and colleges to deliver apprenticeships in cooking techniques that utilise the products of the polyculture farm. 

Our initial collaboration focused on identifying some of the structural and legislative barriers to, along with some propositions for enabling, the development of the democratic economy in Scotland. Our proposals - Building the Intertidal Commons in Scotland - were presented as part of the 2022 Tidal Commons exhibition at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, and incorporated a research workshop with participants from across Scotland. The proposals include enshrining collective usership rights over the foreshore, introducing a strong definition of “ecologically and socially reparative” practices in forthcoming legislation, guaranteeing the no-cost transfer of lands held by Crown Estate Scotland to organisations that can hold it in perpetuity, the development of a new Common Good Act to revitalise the role of Common Good Funds, ensuring public procurement prioritises ecologically and socially reparative practices, and the establishment of a Scottish Office for Commoning. 

This work has provided the context for the development of a proposed PCP model for the Isle of Skye, where we have developed a model for a fully-developed Public-Common Partnership located on a time-horizon 10-15 years from now. We are currently working with CLIMAVORE to identify the next steps in its implementation, including financial modelling, ecological impact modelling, wider social impact modelling, scoping research on common good funds, and local stakeholder engagement.