The new map denotes 19 per cent of Scotland as wild land

The new map denotes 19 per cent of Scotland as wild land

Ramblers, mountaineers and conservationists welcomed the Scottish Government’s new policy that designates almost a fifth of the nation as wild land.

The publication of a wild land area map and adoption of new planning policies will protect some of Scotland’s best landscapes and mountain areas from development.

But the Mountaineering Council of Scotland expressed its disappointment that the new map has seen some areas excluded, including the site of the controversial proposed Stronelairg windfarm in the Monadhliath Mountains, which the Scottish Government recently approved.

The John Muir Trust, which campaigns for the protection of wild land and also owns tracts of Scotland’s mountains, including most of Ben Nevis, called the adoption of the new wild land map a historic breakthrough.

Scottish Natural Heritage, the government agency charged with producing the map, said it shows 42 wild land areas covering 19.5 per cent of Scotland. It replaces a map published in 2013 in support of the draft Scottish planning policy.

Speaking at the launch of the planning framework and policy, Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive, said: “One of our roles is to work with planners and developers to help get the right development in the right place.

“We do this by providing advice on nature and landscape. This new map helps to do this by identifying which are the key areas of wild land.

“We warmly welcome the Government’s recognition of these areas in the new national planning framework and the Scottish planning policy.”

“The planning documents launched today do much more than recognise the importance of the wild land resource. They also recognise the extensive role of nature and landscape in the wider sense, and people’s enjoyment of it, in achieving sustainable economic growth.

“The planned national walking and cycling network, for example, will offer broad health, active travel and tourism benefits. And the commitment to plan for green infrastructure is particularly important if we are to make better places for people to live and work in.”

The wild land designation includes most of Scotland's mountians. Photo: Neil Reid/MCofS

The wild land designation includes most of Scotland's mountians. Photo: Neil Reid/MCofS

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland broadly welcomed the announcement.

It said the ban on any windfarms in national parks or national scenic areas and the adoption of Scottish Natural Heritage’s map of core wild land areas means that a large part of Scotland will be better protected from inappropriate and large-scale developments.

MCofS landscape and access director Dave Gordon said: “We welcome this confirmation that windfarms are incompatible with national parks and national scenic areas.

“We also welcome the recognition of the importance of wild land, which includes most of Scotland’s mountain areas.

“However, we do regret the lack of stronger protection for wild land, which will lead to continued speculative attempts at unsuitable development.

“And it is unfortunate that there has been a reduction in the areas covered by the wild land areas 2014 map, compared to Scottish Natural Heritage’s original 2013 map. The areas removed include a part of the Monadhliath where, just this month, the Scottish Government approved the massive Stronelairg wind farm.”

The council said its recent survey showed the presence of wind farms was a disincentive for mountaineers to visit or revisit an area – a serious consideration when mountaineering tourism in Scotland has been valued at £600m a year, it added.

Wild land is key to tourism, the Ramblers said

Wild land is key to tourism, the Ramblers said

Ramblers Scotland said about 30 per cent of Scotland will be better protected from large scale, inappropriate developments, although the walking organisation also expressed concerns about the increased pressure for development on the large tracts of land outside of these areas.

Helen Todd, campaigns and policy manager at Ramblers Scotland said: “We are very pleased that the Scottish Government has finally recognised in planning policy the importance of wild land for Scotland.

“Wild land is a key tourism asset and a magnificent setting for outdoor recreation, but it is also part of our natural heritage, even our fundamental sense of identity as a nation.

“We are pleased to see the confirmation that no windfarms will be built within national parks or national scenic areas, and we hope that the adoption of Scottish Natural Heritage’s map of core areas of wild land within the Scottish planning policy will lead to a curtailment in the relentless march of giant onshore windfarms with the resulting attrition of our cherished wild areas.

“However, there are still large tracts of land which are exposed to these massive developments, and this will only be corrected by changes in the financial support regimes for windfarms to encourage them to be built offshore, not in fragile upland areas where they are totally out of scale with the landscape.

“Given the Scottish Government’s recent approval of the Stronelairg 67-turbine windfarm in the Monadhliath Mountains, right in the heart of one of these core areas of wild land, this doesn’t fill us with confidence that the new wild land policy will necessarily bring the proper protections we are looking for.

“We will be watching carefully to see whether the Government is really serious about protecting wild land, or whether this policy can be ripped up whenever a big developer comes along with big promises and a massive new wind farm scheme.”

The John Muir Trust owns most of the summit of Ben Nevis

The John Muir Trust owns most of the summit of Ben Nevis

Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust said: “This recognition of Scotland’s wild land as a nationally important asset that needs to be safeguarded marks a historic breakthrough.

“Scotland’s landscapes are spectacular, contributing to our quality of life, our national identity and the visitor economy. The John Muir Trust has fought long and hard over many years with the support of many thousands of people to achieve official recognition for wild land and we welcome this commitment.

“Although this falls short of our request for the absolute protection of wild land from large scale developments, we applaud the Scottish Government for taking this bold step in the face of a sustained campaign to undermine wild land protection by powerful vested interests.

The trust said the new policy should discourage energy companies from targeting the 42 areas that make up the wild land map. But it too pointed out that areas such as Stronelairg had been removed from the original draft map.

Mr Brooks said: “Before commenting on the specific changes to the map, we will look more closely at the detailed explanations from SNH about the reasons for these removals. We will continue to defend those areas that we consider to be wild land from large scale development.”

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