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Wild land charity the John Muir Trust has announced the launch of a new national campaign for greater protection of Scotland’s 42 Wild Land Areas, the places identified by Scottish Natural Heritage as the most natural, rugged and unaffected by major human infrastructure.

To mark the launch of the Keep it Wild campaign, the Trust released a new YouGov poll which reveals 80% of people living in Scotland backed the proposition that Scotland’s Wild Land Areas should receive continued protection from large-scale infrastructure development.

A majority (52%) ‘strongly agree’ that “Wild Land Areas should continue to be protected from large-scale infrastructure, such as industrial-scale wind farms, major electricity transmission and super-quarries”, while a further 28% ‘tend to agree’. Just 5% ‘tend to disagree’ with this wild land protection, while the number who ‘strongly disagree‘ is negligible, registering 0% in the YouGov poll.

The Scottish Government promised significant protection in planning policy for Wild Land Areas at the time WLAs were officially recognised in 2014 and mapped out by Scottish Natural Heritage. However, energy developers continue to submit applications to construct industrial-scale wind farms in these areas, and, although a number have been refused permission, the recent decision to approve the Creag Riabhach wind farm in Altnaharra has created uncertainty about the continued protection of Wild Land Areas into the future.

This is the first time that consent has been given for a wind farm within a Wild Land Area, and the decision is about to be reviewed in Scotland’s supreme civil court, the Court of Session.

There are several other major wind farms proposed, in various stages of planning approval, which would also have a major impact on Wild Land Areas. These include Caplich (20 turbines) in the shadow of Ben Mor Assynt; Strathy South (39 turbines) in the Flow Country and Limekiln (24 turbines) near Reay in Caithness.

The Keep it Wild campaign urges the Scottish government to use the forthcoming Planning Bill, expected to be introduced by the end of the year, to give Wild Land Areas similar protection from industrial-scale development to that which protects National Parks and National Scenic Areas from windfarms.

Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust said: “Scotland is united in wishing to keep our wild landscapes free from large-scale wind farms, giant pylons, super quarries and other inappropriate commercial developments.

“Wild land is a key part of Scotland’s natural heritage and national identity. It is also a major driver of the Scottish economy, attracting tourists from all over the world to visit, spend money and support jobs in some our most fragile local communities.”

The Keep It Wild campaign urges people to show their support for Scotland’s Wild Land Areas to be protected as a unique natural legacy for future generations by writing to their MSP and/or Scotland’s Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP, and getting involved on social media using the hashtag #keepitwild.

Image: The Forsinard Flows, Caithness  ©Lorne Gill/SNH/2020VISION