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Eight outdoors groups plead with Scots politicians to protect wild land

Eight leading bodies, including those representing outdoor enthusiasts, have called on the Scottish Government to increase protection for wild land.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and Ramblers Scotland are among the groups urging MSPs to back stronger powers to protect the nation’s scenic areas.

The move follows controversy over the building of windfarms and hilltracks which opponents say detract from the quality of Scotland’s wild areas and risk harming tourism.

Leaders of the organisations, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the Munro Society, the National Trust for Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, the Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society and the Scottish Wild Land Group – between them representing over 350,000 members – said they welcome moves by the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage to safeguard Scotland’s landscapes but say that their existing proposals do not go far enough.

A joint open letter from them said: “We support the increased protection proposed for national parks and national scenic areas, although this merely formalises the present de facto position.

“Such protection should apply also where development is proposed beyond their boundaries that would impact on the very qualities they were established to safeguard.”

The organisations also questioned whether or not the wording of the draft Scottish planning policy and national planning framework is tight enough.

They said: “The current draft states that, in national nature reserves, wild land and other important areas, wind-power developments will be acceptable ‘where it can be demonstrated that any significant effects on the qualities for which the area is identified can be substantially improved by siting, design or mitigation.’

“This will allow inappropriate developments to be approved because of lack of clarity in using subjective words such as ‘significant’ and ‘substantially’ when set against the primacy afforded in Government policy to economic and energy development.”

The letter raises concerns that local decision making risks being undermined by Scottish Government decisions. “If local authorities and their electorates think particular local landscapes are important then this should not be over-ridden nationally,” it said.

Kenneth Calman, chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, said: “As MSPs return to their constituencies over the summer we hope that all, whether in Government or opposition, give serious consideration to the landscape around them and what it represents for the people they represent.

“Recent surveys, such as the one undertaken by the John Muir Trust and one conducted by my own charity, show that a majority of Scots are very greatly concerned about the future of our wild land and local landscapes.

“This is why we have come together to put our names to this open letter – our landscapes need better protection and this is what the people of Scotland want.

“Our iconic landscapes are key to our economic and environmental future and our collective wellbeing. They must not be sacrificed to over-development through oversight or short-term thinking.”