“We would ask the committee to reflect on the fact that poll after poll conducted across Scotland has demonstrated overwhelming public support for wild land protection.”

As the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Communities Committee continues its deliberations over the Planning (Scotland) Bill, the John Muir Trust has urged support for an amendment which would give Scotland’s Wild Land Areas the same degree of protection from inappropriate large-scale development as is currently afforded to National Parks and National Scenic Areas.

The 42 Wild Land Areas were mapped by SNH in 2014. Subsequently, the Scottish Government underpinned the map with qualified protection for Wild Land Areas. Since then a number of large-scale developments within Wild Land Area have been refused permission, while one has been approved.

The Trust believes that the Planning Bill is an opportunity to bring clarity and consistency into the decision-making process by bringing Wild Land Areas into line with National Scenic Areas and National Parks. An amendment from Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole Hamilton that would ensure “special attention is to be paid to safeguarding or enhancing” the character of wild land will be debated at the Local Government and Communities Committee on Wednesday 14 November.

“We recognise that there is no pristine wilderness in Scotland, but we do have more than our share of rugged, mountainous, awe-inspiring terrain”

Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust said: “Bringing Wild Land Areas into line with National Parks and NSAs would benefit everyone – developers, communities, environmentalists, planning officials, councillors and other interested parties – by removing an important element of confusion.  The past four years have seen a number of applications from commercial developers fail because of their unsuitable location on wild land, but along the way they have devoured time and money through the whole protracted planning process – including costly Public Local Inquiries – that would have better spent exploring more suitable alternative options.

She stressed that the Trust does not seek to prohibit all development within Wild Land Areas. “A whole range of economic activity takes place within National Parks and National Scenic Areas, including forestry operations, small-scale energy projects, tourist-related businesses, and agriculture.

“We recognise that there is no pristine wilderness in Scotland, but we do have more than our share of rugged, mountainous, awe-inspiring terrain. These areas can accommodate sustainable economic activity. But we believe we need to draw the line at large-scale industrial-style infrastructure that has the potential to fundamentally alter the character of sensitive landscapes while inflicting severe ecological damage.”

“We would ask the committee to reflect on the fact that poll after poll conducted across Scotland has demonstrated overwhelming public support for wild land protection.”

johnmuirtrust.org

Header image © johnbraid / Shutterstock

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