Politicians need to respect Scotland's mountains, the MCofS said. Photo: Gerry Neely

Politicians need to respect Scotland's mountains, the MCofS said. Photo: Gerry Neely

Mountaineers in Scotland have called on politicians to respect the nation’s uplands.

A campaign by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland ahead of the looming general election aims to raise the importance of preserving wild lands in the eyes of decision makers.

The MCofS, which represents climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers north of the border, said windfarms and hilltracks in mountain areas risk despoiling the landscape and alienating visitors who come to enjoy outdoor pursuits.

“Just weeks after highlighting shortcomings in the Scottish Government’s handling of windfarm applications, where counsel from its own advisors is too often ignored by ministers, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland has challenged the Government and all politicians to take a more positive view of our mountains,” it said.

The council has published Respecting Scotland’s Mountains: MCofS Vision for the Future, which it said points the way ahead to a sustainable future where appropriate development and conservation can go side by side.

MCofS president Brian Linington said: “We call on politicians to protect and promote our mountains as the incredible asset that they are, to open their eyes to the permanent damage being done to this irreplaceable resource by ill considered developments.

“With a general election looming the moment has come for all the political parties to be absolutely clear that they are committed to the protection of our mountains and wild places. They can do this by joining us in working for a future which respects our natural heritage and makes the most of it for our country and its people.”

The MCofS has also produced an online petition with campaign group 38 Degrees urging better protection of Scotland’s remaining wild land.

It said the proportion of Scotland from which built development cannot be seen dropped by two fifths in just 11 years, to 27 per cent in 2013. The petition calls for a ban on further industrial development on the remaining wild land, as mapped by Scottish National Heritage last year.

The petition seeks wider public support for the message in the Respecting Scotland’s Mountains booklet. The council said the document has at its heart the view that Scotland protects and respects its mountains and wild places whilst encouraging people to enjoy the mountains in a responsible manner.

The MCofS said its five main arguments are:

  • That mountains and wild land should be safeguarded as an irreplaceable natural, cultural and economic asset
  • That the mountains provide opportunity to develop and improve informal recreation, tourism and health and wellbeing
  • That Scotland should harness the potential of mountains and wild land to contribute to a foundation for sustainable futures for fragile rural communities
  • That change should be planned and regulated to enhance rather than diminish our wild lands and mountains
  • And finally, that appreciation and enjoyment of the mountains – including good practice and responsibility – should be promoted from childhood.

Its two major areas of concern highlighted in the document are inappropriately-sited windfarms and the lack of effective control over damaging hill tracks.

Scotland's mountains are important for the economic wellbeing of remote communities, the MCofS said. Photo: nineonsix guiding

Scotland's mountains are important for the economic wellbeing of remote communities, the MCofS said. Photo: nineonsix guiding

It also emphasises the need to support fragile local economies in highland areas, saying sustainable businesses can be created by making the most of mountains as places for recreation and leisure. The council argues that, to do this their wild quality must be maintained. If not, the evidence increasingly shows that visitors will go elsewhere, it said.
And it underlines the role of mountains in tackling Scotland’s major health challenges associated with lack of exercise and stress.

The document says: “People need to be encouraged to go out and experience the beauty, enjoy the exercise and benefit from the relaxation that our mountains can provide.”

Copies of Respecting Scotland’s Mountains have been sent to each of Scotland’s 129 MSPs and to its 59 MPs, as well as councillors and heads of planning in the national parks and local authority areas which include mountains, and to government agencies with responsibility for environmental matters.

The document can also be downloaded from the MCofS website.

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