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Wild land legal protection parliament bid

A plea by conservationists to protect wild land will be heard at the Scottish Parliament today.

The John Muir Trust has collected thousands of signatures from people who back its concerns about the rate of development across otherwise unspoilt areas.

The trust has been working on maps to build a picture of the best wild land which it believes should be given statutory protection, separate to existing designations such as National Scenic Areas.

In a submission to Holyrood’s Public Petitions Committee, the trust stated: “Wild land in Scotland provides important ecosystem services, sustaining numerous forms of life including key biodiversity species and providing for essential climate change mitigation and adaptation, for instance, retention of carbon in peat, providing high-quality water supplies and contributing to natural flood defences.

“Wild land does not receive clear and explicit recognition or protection within the Scottish planning system, or when decisions are made on sustainable land use.

“As a consequence, as more accessible and less sensitive sites are developed, some of the best wild land faces the threat of being lost forever.”

The trust says it cannot afford to step in and challenge every planning application it thinks is inappropriate.

The committee will hear from the trust and from Scottish Natural Heritage chairman Andrew Thin and chief executive Ian Jardine.

MSPs are also expected to discuss the impact of windfarms on the countryside. A separate petition calls for a change in planning regulations to enable an increase in the current “neighbour notification” distance of 20 metres.

Meanwhile campaigners will hand the First Minister a 4,500-strong petition in the name of Stop Highland Windfarms. Rhona Weir, widow of broadcaster and conservationist Tom Weir, is expected to present the document to Alex Salmond.