Pioneering motion map shows Scotland to be 'on the move'

A first land motion map has been created showing movement across Scotland.

It was created by a team of scientists at the University of Nottingham with hundreds of satellite radar images of the country.

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The map covers a two-year period from 2015 to 2017 and was created using Intermittent Small Baseline analysis, a satellite remote sensing technique.

It showed that small but significant rates of land motion are occurring across almost the entire landscape of Scotland.

The relative land motion map showing uplift due to groundwater recovery in the former underground coal mines of East Lothian, left, against an aerial photograph of the same area shown on the right
Uplift due to groundwater recovery in the former underground coal mines of East Lothian, left, against an aerial photograph of the same area shown on the right (University of Nottingham/PA)

Rural areas were found to be marked by subsidence over peatlands and landslides on steep slopes, while urban and industrialised areas showed the "effects of historical coal mining and engineering work".

The university team said such maps could inform regulations around fracking and oil and gas production.

Project leader Dr Stephen Grebby said: "Tracking ground motion is also important for a wide range of other applications such as monitoring infrastructure, and this is not just limited to Scotland.

"For example, our wide-area monitoring technique could be used to help identify and monitor ground instability issues along the whole stretch of the proposed HS2 route.

A large slow-moving landslide (red area) west of Struy in the Highland council region, revealed by the relative land motion map, against an aerial photograph of the same area shown on the right
A large slow-moving landslide, red area, west of Struy in the Highland council region, revealed by the relative land motion map, against an aerial photograph of the same area shown on the right (University of Nottingham/PA)

"This would provide information that could ultimately influence the plans for the final route for Phase 2 of HS2, or at least highlight existing ground instability issues that may need to be addressed during construction of the network."

Subsidence is shown on the map by red and yellow colours, with green representing stable ground across the majority of the country.

The map team said vast lowland and highland peatland areas have shown subsidence, thought to be link to the levels of carbon stored in soils.

Dr Andy Sowter, chief technology officer of Geomatic Ventures Limited, the company that processed the satellite images, said: "If Scotland is to reach its climate change targets, which are currently under scrutiny by the UK Committee on Climate Change, land motion maps like this can provide vital evidence on the health of peatlands and with regular monitoring, the beneficial effect of peatland restoration towards improving the carbon balance."

Ten things to see and do in Scotland
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Ten things to see and do in Scotland

Chanonry Point is a prime site for spotting bottlenose dolphins, so if you want some great wildlife photo opportunities, this place has got it all. The Point is a small peninsula extending over a mile south east into the Moray Firth from Rosemarkie and Fortrose, and the best times to spot the dolphins are in the mornings when the tide comes in, bringing shoals of fish with it, and in the afternoons when it washes the fish out to sea again. For photography purposes, the afternoon is best because the sun is in the best position. The imposing Fort George lies on the opposite shore.

The Stevenson family – including their most famous member, Robert Louis – was big in the world of lighthouses and examples of their work can be seen around the world. This one, built by Robert’s Uncle Alan, is constructed uniquely in Egyptian style. Completed in 1849 it inspired Alice Thompson’s ghost story Pharos. Local folklore has it that, in the nineteenth century, all three lighthouse keepers vanished without trace forever. Open from 1 April - 31 October.  Stables Coffee Shop and Exhibition Centre open daily. Lighthouse tours every half hour 11am-4.30pm. For admission to the Tower and Exhibition Centre: Adults £5; children under 16, concessions £3; family (4 persons) £14

There’s a treehouse lover in most of us, and there’s a chance to stay in a luxury treehouse in the woods at Fernie Castle for the ultimate outdoorsy type. There are three balconies, a swing and all mod cons – but it all comes with a price tag of around £500 a night. Mind you, this includes a chilled bottle of champagne, chocolates, a fresh fruit basket, soft drinks, biscuits, Continental breakfast, breakfast tea and coffee as well as dinner in the Castle. Up amidst six sycamore trees, the copper-roofed construction is festooned in fairy lights and contains beautifully hand-crafted natural wood furniture, including a king-sized elm bed. There’s heating, running water, a flat-screen TV, DVD and CD player, plus fridge, kettle and coffee maker. This might just be the perfect place for a honeymoon or special anniversary.

You don’t have to be a science geek to enjoy the futuristic, titanium-clad Science Centre on the south bank of the River Clyde. You could be a film buff (there’s a fab IMAX Theatre with a 12,000-watt sound system); a sightseer (the views from the unique 105m-high Glasgow Tower rotates 360 degrees to give breathtaking views); an astronomer (when you visit the Scottish Power Planetarium) or a conservationist (there’s a climate change theatre, too!). But if you do happen to be a budding scientist, it’s an unmissable feast of 300 hands-on exhibits, interactive workshops and live science shows. There’s enough to amuse and entertain to make it a great day out, and you can eat and drink there as well. Open daily, adults (16+) £9.95; child and concessions £7.95, parking £3

Here’s a real must-see in the heart of Glasgow University, housing exhibits left to it by Scottish anatomist Dr William Hunter as well as priceless works of art and historical reconstructions, including a Charles Rennie Mackintosh bedroom (pictured). The Museum holds outstanding Roman artifacts from the Antonine Wall; Dr Hunter’s own extensive anatomical teaching collection and one of the world’s greatest numismatic (coins and currency) collections . The Art Gallery houses a small collection of works by huge-name artists, including 60 works by James McNeill Whistler. You can also see pieces by Rubens, Rembrandt and Chardin. Both the Hunterian Art Gallery and Museum are free and open daily from Tuesday to Sunday.

If you’ve ever had occasion to wish you could be judge and jury, then Inveraray Jail could help you to live out your fantasy. The ancient courthouse and prison is an interactive experience where you can watch re-enactments of ‘prisoners’ facing the judge. Join the jury, hear the verdict, meet the prison staff and socialise with the inmates. The exhibitions are gory enough to satisfy the most blood-thirsty of souls. Adults £8.95; seniors £7.50; children 5-16 £4.95; under-fives free.

Just a couple of minutes’ drive from the M74 you can find yourself in the charming 19th century spa town of Moffat. If it’s your first visit to Scotland, it’s the perfect introduction to the country. Take your pick of hotels and cafés for a meal break then let the kids wear themselves out in a very family-friendly park that has mini golf, boating and a swing park, or take yourselves off for a bracing hill walk. The town itself boasts the narrowest hotel in the world, the shortest street in the UK and the widest main street in Scotland.

Even if you have no knowledge or understanding of engineering, this eight-lock flight is amazing to see. It raises the canal by 19m (62ft) over a quarter of a mile of continuous masonry. It’s overlooked by Ben Nevis and the best way to view it is by boat: a trip takes an hour and a half to pass from one end to the other.

If you’ve ever read Robert Burns’ poem Tam O’Shanter, you’ll be able to put the character Souter Johnnie into some physical context. John Davidson, the original Souter (cobbler) Johnnie, lived in this quaint 18th-century thatched cottage. This National Trust for Scotland house also offers a taste of how the Davidson family would have lived and worked, and you can see Souter Johnnie’s original tools and even a small collection of Robert Burns memorabilia. Open from 1 April-30 September, Friday-Tuesday, adults £6; family: £16 (1 parent : £11); concessions £5. Free to members.

Lurking beneath an innocent-looking Scottish farmhouse is a secret underground bunker that remained hidden for over 40 years. It’s 100 feet below ground level and is huge, measuring 24,000 square feet  - that’s the size of two football pitches stacked on top of one another. In the event of nuclear war, this would be the government headquarters for Scotland. Discover how a Cold War government would have survived underground when you visit the Secret Bunker. Open daily from 10am, last admission 5pm. Closed for the winter season from the end of October.

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