A hill track

A hill track

The problem of Scotland’s burgeoning tracks across wilderness areas will be debated in the Scottish Parliament, thanks to a campaign by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland.

A petition in support of the MCofS’s Hill Tracks Campaign has gathered more than 1,500 signatures. The campaign is being led at Holyrood by Labour MSPs Peter Peacock and Sarah Boyack. The John Muir Trust, the Scottish Wildland Group and the North East Mountaineering Trust are also backing the campaign, which aims to control the unfettered building of tracks across some of the country’s most scenic areas.

The debate will take place on 9 June. The two MSPs said in a statement: “The significance of securing a debate is that the minister responsible has to come to the floor of Parliament to reply to the debate and brings into public their current thinking on the issue.”

The pair are urging Scottish residents to write to their local MSP urging them to join the debate.

Hebe Carus, the MCofS’s access and conservation officer said at the launch of the campaign: “I regularly receive photographs of outstandingly badly constructed tracks through previously wild areas, even in supposedly protected areas.

“The sad thing is that these are irreversible and completely uncontrolled through the planning system. The longer the review of permitted development rights is delayed the more of wild Scotland will be lost forever.

PDR are regulations that are quite complicated, but basically permit landowners, without any permission or control, to construct tracks for forestry or agricultural reasons. Many of these tracks are in upland areas where there are only a few sheep or where an unviable plantation exists.

“The Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006 is supposed to modernise the planning system for the benefit of the people and environment of Scotland, but the implementation timetable is being permitted to slip repeatedly.

“There has already been more than a three-year delay since a report by Heriot-Watt University, commissioned by the Scottish Executive, clearly recommended an extensive overhaul of the uncontrolled rights of landowners to construct hill tracks through our beautiful wild areas.

“The Scottish Government has taken no action on this. Unless there is considerable pressure put on the Scottish Government, the planned tightening of the system of controls will slip so far into the future that it has no prospect of being considered in this Scottish Parliament.”

Shadow environment minister Ms Boyack and her Holyrood colleague have also started a Facebook group in support of the campaign.

They point out that the debate can be seen on the online Holyrood TV channel at 5pm.

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