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Paradise lost – Scotland’s vanishing views

The iconic image of wild Scotland is rugged mountainsides, scenic lochs and sweeping glens with nothing but the odd tree, Highland cow or occasional stag as far as the eye can see.

But the Scottish wilderness is shrinking fast according to a new report. In the past year the amount of land which is not visually blighted by man-made structures has shrunk by an area 14 times the size of Glasgow.

A growing number of windfarms have been blamed for the loss of wilderness. Power lines have also been blamed for encroaching on the landscape.

A report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) showed that the proportion of Scottish land which could be counted as being “without visual influence of built development” fell from 31 per cent to 28 per cent in the year to December 2009.

The drop was far more rapid than in previous years, when the amount of land considered unspoiled fell by 10 per cent between 2002 and 2008 – from 41 per cent to 31 per cent.

Conservationists have raised concerns over the loss of Scotland’s wilderness, claiming officials need to ensure developments are not allowed in areas which could spoil the visual landscape.

“The decrease in area unaffected by the visual influence of built development is, in the main, caused by wind turbines,” said a spokesman for SNH. “Wind farms are being built rapidly in relation to other forms of development and they are highly visible due to their locations.”

Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, which petitions for the protection of wild land, said: “This is a deeply worrying figure, which will clearly continue to decline if more large developments are approved within wild land areas.

“While many factors are involved, the statistics show that wind developments are responsible for most of this dramatic loss, intruding on areas where little human influence has been felt in the past.

“Scotland’s wild land is one of the our most valuable assets, supporting tourism, biodiversity and the wider environment,” added Ms McDade. “We can’t afford to lose more of it through the industrialisation of our mountains and moorlands.”

A VisitScotland spokesman said: “Scotland’s stunning scenery obviously plays a major role in why many people choose to visit.” “We haven’t received any negative reports regarding scenery as there is clearly no shortage of places in Scotland where visitors, and indeed people who live here, can enjoy peace and tranquillity amid breathtaking landscapes. However, we will monitor the situation.”