Alex Salmond heads a minority Holyrood administration. Photo: Scottish Government CC-BY-2.0

Alex Salmond heads a minority Holyrood administration. Photo: Scottish Government [CC-2.0]

Outdoor campaigners have unleashed a political onslaught on the Scottish Government in the run-up to the May Holyrood elections.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has produced a mountain manifesto pointing out the importance of the Scottish uplands as a place escape from the financial rigours of everyday life.

And it has joined organisations such as the John Muir Trust, Ramblers Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks in pressing the Scottish Government to confirm its commitment to a major European scheme to protect the landscape.

The MCofS’s access and conservation officer Hebe Carus said: “In this time of ‘austerity’ mountaineering is even more relevant.

“For many it is an escape from financial concerns, but it is one of a huge range of demands on public money. We cannot afford to put the physical and mental wellbeing benefits that a large number of people gain from mountaineering on the backburner just when people need it the most.

“The Scottish Government has significant impact on funding to ensure the rights of responsible access we all enjoy and are also largely the decision-makers for policies that affect the uplands environment such as planning, including encouragement of renewable development and landscape conservation.”

The council’s manifesto, which comes in the wake of the contentious granting of permission for a 33-turbine windfarm in the Monadhliath mountains, includes pleas on the economy, landscape, energy, climate change, marine strategy and recreation and outdoor access.

The manifesto says: “Scotland’s uplands are important for residents and visitors for recreation, and so contribute to health and wellbeing,” and adds the Scottish Government should take into consideration the importance of the uplands for recreation in all national policies.

And an alliance of organisations has signed an open letter to the Scottish Government calling for reaffirmation of commitments contained in the European Landscape Convention, and greater progress towards meeting them.

The signatories, which also include the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and experts from across Britain, have also copied the plea to the UK Government and the Welsh Assembly Government.

Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, one of the signatories to the letter, said: “Scotland has a wide and varied range of natural landscapes, featuring around 300 distinct landscape types. But landscape is more than scenery. It is the interaction between people and place and is the bedrock upon which our society is built. It gives meaning and value to the world around us, contributing to our sense of identity and quality of life.”

“The value of people visiting the landscape, through exploring parks, woodland areas, lochs and open space was valued by Scottish Natural Heritage as nearly £4 billion. The same study reported that visitors to Scotland’s wild landscape areas contributed as much as £751m to the Scottish Economy, supporting 20,600 jobs.”

John Mayhew, convenor of the Scottish Environment Link Landscape Taskforce, added: “We have made a good start in Scotland through the creation of Scotland’s Landscape Charter, but without wider backing for landscape from government and all relevant interests, there is a danger than it will continue to take a back seat.

“We need clear support from the Scottish Government to implement Scotland’s Landscape Charter, and it is equally vital that support is given by the UK Government and devolved administrations.”

The Scottish National Party currently governs by a minority administration in Holyrood, with one seat more than Scottish Labour. Elections for the parliament take place on 5 May this year.

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