Perthshire gamekeeper Josh Burton, left, is joined by Mountaineering Scotland president Mike Watson and Mountaineering Scotland volunteer Dave Gordon, right.

Perthshire gamekeeper Josh Burton, left, is joined by Mountaineering Scotland president Mike Watson and Mountaineering Scotland volunteer Dave Gordon, right.

An unlikely alliance of two traditionally opposing bodies is urging the Scottish Government to protect the open landscapes for which the nation is renowned.

Mountaineers and gamekeepers, often at loggerheads over outdoors policy, have agreed to press the Holyrood administration to introduce a policy to protect Scotland’s uplands.

The Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Mountaineering Scotland, which represents hillwalkers, climbers and mountaineers north of the border, said large-scale afforestation could ruin celebrated vistas.

The two organisations have written jointly to environment minister Roseanna Cunningham to voice concerns over fragmented policy on open landscapes. The two bodies admit they do not agree on all matters but said they have memberships who share a passionate interest in the nation’s landscapes.

They said: “While Scotland’s open landscapes and upland moors are classed as rare in global terms, there is currently no policy position safeguarding them. Some areas are designated as of special ecological or scenic interest but most are unprotected and disregarded.”

They said neither body opposes well sited, planned tree planting, but both question whether enough weight is being given to the significant changes this will have on the landscape and access.

In particular, they are worried that the dramatic open views and vistas, regarded as iconic of Scotland, may disappear.

They pointed out successive Scottish administrations have published detailed forestry strategies and targets, with 10,000ha (24,700 acres) of new planting earmarked to take place each year until 2022.

Mike Watson, president of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “The SGA and ourselves have different views on a number of issues, but we have a common interest in the development of a land-use policy that will protect the landscapes that we both value.

“Mountaineering Scotland will continue working to ensure access to mountain areas for our members, and it is imperative that the landscape of these areas is protected from inappropriate development.

“We hope that a joint approach to the Scottish Government from our two organisations will demonstrate the wide-ranging concern over this issue, and the need for development of a coherent policy that takes into account the views of all interested parties.”

Mountaineering Scotland is seeking a planned approach to afforestation. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Mountaineering Scotland is seeking a planned approach to afforestation. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Both bodies welcome Scottish Natural Heritage’s preparatory work on outlining a strategic vision for the uplands, arguing that, without such a vision, key areas may be given up to agriculture, energy and afforestation, with insufficient attention paid to what is being lost.

They are seeking a meeting with the environment minister to discuss what they see as a ‘failure to join up what is required from the land to meet forestry targets and what we might want to keep in terms of internationally rare and valuable landscapes and ecosystems’.

The two organisations would like Scottish Government to share its own thinking on the relative values of woodland and moorland and have offered joint support in developing a strategic vision and plan for Scotland’s uplands.

Alex Hogg, chairman of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, said: “Recent dialogue between both organisations established a great deal of common ground when it came to the pride our respective memberships have in the land, but also their worries about upland landscapes and how different they may look, in the not too distant future, if we don’t have a landscape policy which gives them the emphasis required.

“We have lost so much open moorland since the 1940s and a narrow view, now, may fail what we have left.”

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