Scotland

Call for statutory wild land area protection in Scotland

The Forsinard Flows, Caithness Image copyright Lorne Gill/SNH
Image caption The John Muir Trust wants to keep Wild Land Areas free from industrial-scale development

Conservationists are calling for statutory protection for wilderness areas in Scotland.

The John Muir Trust's Keep It Wild campaign calls on the Scottish government to use the forthcoming Planning Bill to keep Wild Land Areas free from industrial-scale development.

This would be similar to the protection already in place in national parks and national scenic areas.

Ministers said there was extra scrutiny of plans affecting wild land areas.

Scottish Natural Heritage revealed its map of Wild Land Areas in 2014 and said the areas of "high wildness" were nationally important in Scottish planning policy but were not protected by law.

A new poll has revealed that more than half of the 1,028 people surveyed in Scotland between 18 and 22 May backed designated areas being given further safeguards from large developments.

'Lost for good'

The John Muir Trust commissioned the YouGov poll which found that 52% of those who took part "strongly agreed" that the areas "should continue to be protected from large-scale infrastructure, such as industrial-scale wind farms, major electricity transmission and super-quarries", while 28% "tended to agree".

A further 5% "tended to disagree" but 0% "strongly disagreed", 12% remained neutral and 3% were undecided.

Image copyright Iain Maclean

The trust's campaign comes as the first wind farm to be given permission to build on a Wild Land Area, 22-turbine Creag Riabhach at Altnaharra, Sutherland, is being challenged in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, said: "Scotland is united in wishing to keep our wild landscapes free from large-scale wind farms, giant pylons, super quarries and other inappropriate commercial developments."

She said the Planning Bill was an opportunity to provide the protection that was "currently missing".

She added: "That's why we're launching the Keep It Wild campaign, to persuade the Scottish government that protection for Wild Land Areas must be enshrined in legislation before they are lost for good.

"Wild land is a key part of Scotland's natural heritage and national identity. It is also a major driver of the Scottish economy, attracting tourists from all over the world to visit, spend money and support jobs in some our most fragile local communities."

The campaign urges people to show their support for Scotland's Wild Land Areas to be given statutory protection by writing to politicians and backing the drive on social media.

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We have clear planning policies in place to ensure wind farms are developed in appropriate locations and Scottish Planning Policy published in 2014 provides additional protection for both our National Parks and National Scenic Areas as well as additional scrutiny of proposals in or affecting wild land areas.

"Whilst we need to pursue Scotland's vast potential to generate power from renewable sources, it is equally clear that we need to do this in a way that protects Scotland's magnificent natural environment and each application is viewed in this context and based on its own merits; in a number of cases where, on the balance of evidence, unacceptable impacts on visual amenity have been identified, development proposals have been rejected.

"The Scottish government cannot comment on active legal proceedings."

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