Politicians generally showed apathy to wild land in the run-up to the general election

Politicians generally showed apathy to wild land in the run-up to the general election

Political leaders have demonstrated their apathy when it comes to protecting Scotland’s wild land, mountaineers said.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said it was disappointed that only two party leaders responded to its questions on the subject.

And only one, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, provided direct answers. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon was the only other to respond.

The MCofS, which has 12,000 members representing hill walkers, climbers and mountaineers north of the border, said the political apathy contrasts with the public’s view, with a public petition on the subject already attracting more than 10,000 signatures.

Campaigning to highlight the importance of Scotland’s mountains and remaining wild land for tourism, recreation and economic sustainability, the MCofS wrote to the leaders of all political parties at Holyrood and Westminster on 20 March.

The organisation asked them to set out where they stand on protecting wild landscapes from development in the form of industrial-scale windfarms and intrusive hilltracks and asked them to answer five questions based on Respecting Scotland’s Mountains, the MCofS’ recently-published vision.

Only two of the 10 political leaders responded – Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson – and only Ruth Davidson actually answered the questions directly, the MCofS said.

MCofS chief officer David Gibson said: “To say we are disappointed about this clear disconnect between the voting public and our political representatives and leaders is an understatement.

“In the run up to the general election we were keen to give our members and supporters a clear insight into how the different parties prioritise the protection of Scotland’s wild land as it has been notably absent from the debates, pamphlets and party broadcasts.”

David Gibson: 'we still want to know parties' views'

David Gibson: 'we still want to know parties' views'

“We would still like to know where Labour, the Green Party, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats stand on these issues and urge all the party leaders to respond. We are committed to publishing their responses right up to polling day.”

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said it recommends the public continue to challenge their own Westminster parliamentary candidates when they encounter them out and about on the streets with last-minute canvasing over the coming week.

It said the proportion of the country from which built development cannot be seen has dropped by 40 per cent in 11 years, to less than one third in 2013.

Several high profile proposals currently on the table would diminish this wild land further, the council said, including plans for industrial-scale wind farms at the heart of Rannoch Moor and on the edge of the Cairngorms national park. These have met with major opposition from a range of sectors including local communities, tourism providers, charities such as the John Muir Trust and the Holyrood Government’s own conservation body Scottish Natural Heritage.

Mr Gibson said: “These landscapes are not a luxury. Local people’s jobs depend on them and we want to be sure our political leaders and future UK parliamentary representatives understand and prioritise these matters as essential to Scotland’s economic and social sustainability.”

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