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John Muir Trust launch “Keep it Wild” campaign

This week saw the John Muir Trust launch an attempt to have so called “wild land areas” formally designated and therefore protected from what they call industrial developments. 

The campaign coincides with the imminent decision over the Court of Session Creag Riabhach wind farm case.  Despite claims by the Trust that this is not about being anti-wind farm, the two agendas are clearly linked.  The Trust’s press release is further down this page.

Scottish Land & Estates is neither pro or anti-wind farm development, but wishes to see the right development in the right place.  However, we have always had concerns about Scotland’s wild land maps which were developed by Scottish Natural Heritage.  Chairman, David Johnstone, replied to an article in The Herald outlining our concerns –

Concern over mission creep for Wild Land Areas

In Tuesday’s article highlighting The John Muir Trust’s (JMT) “Keep It Wild” campaign reference is made to “designated wild land” areas.  These areas carry no legal designation.  There is good reason for this, wild land is a subjective concept and legal designation requires objective and consistently measurable criteria.

Wild land mapping was something seized on by individuals and organisations with a largely anti-wind farm agenda following an academic exercise by Leeds University.  It relies on subjective tests, such as perceived ruggedness and how people feel in a landscape.  Even the more objective criteria such as the absence of evidence of human development are vague, since signs of older human existence is allowed.  These “tests” are individual and rely on personal knowledge of how a landscape comes about.      

We need some honesty.  There is almost nowhere in Scotland which has been shaped only by nature and might therefore be considered wild or wilderness.  Scotland has some beautiful, valued landscapes but shaping by human development is an integral part of what they are.  If we are to have a living, working countryside, humans will need to be allowed to continue to shape it.

Of course, there are some places that need sensitive treatment and there are some aspects of our past that we should be careful not to obliterate from our landscapes, we would not for a second seek to deny this, but let’s not pretend we are preserving wildness.

John Muir Trust release

Keep it Wild campaign launched as Scotland’s Wild Land Areas come under threat from industrial-scale development

Government urged to update planning rules as YouGov poll finds 4 in 5 Scots back greater protection for Wild Land Areas

Imminent decision over Court of Session Creag Riabhach wind farm case highlights ongoing uncertainty about protection of Wild Land Areas

One of the UK’s leading conservation bodies has today launched a new national campaign for greater protection of Scotland’s Wild Land Areas, amid concern that a significant case at the Court of Session potentially threatens the future of Scotland’s unique landscapes.  

The John Muir Trust’s “Keep It Wild” campaign calls on the Scottish Government to use the forthcoming Planning Bill to give Wild Land Areas protection from industrial-scale development, similar to the protection already in place for windfarms in National Parks and NSAs.

The campaign comes as the Court of Session in Edinburgh is set to decide a judicial review of a decision to approve Creag Riabhach wind farm in Altnaharra that would allow the development of 22-turbines up to 125m tall, including five within Wild Land Area 37.

The court case highlights that the Scottish Government said in June 2014 that they intended to give strengthened protection for Wild Land Areas. However, the recent government approval for the Creag Riabhach development has cast doubt on this, as the permission granted to the developers was the first to encroach the boundaries of a designated Wild Land Area.

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

An absolute majority – 52 per cent – ‘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 per cent ‘tend to agree’. Just five per cent ‘tend to disagree’ with this wild land protection, while the number who ‘strongly disagree‘ is negligible, registering zero per cent in the YouGov poll.

Of the remainder, 12 per cent ‘neither agree nor disagree’ with the proposals, with three per cent undecided.

Support for wild land protection is overwhelming among all age groups and geographical regions. The Highlands and Islands, where most of Scotland’s wild land is located, has the highest proportion of people (60 per cent) who strongly agree with the protection of Wild Land Areas.

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. 

“The forthcoming Planning Bill provides a unique opportunity to provide the protection that’s currently missing, which means that cases like Creag Riabhach wind farm currently have to be challenged in the courts. That’s why we’re launching the Keep it Wild campaign, to persuade the Scottish Government that protection for Wild Land Areas must be enshrined in legislation before they are lost for good.

“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.

“And with support for wild protection outweighing opposition by 16 to 1, it’s hard to think of any other public issue which commands such a universal consensus across age groups, geographical regions and social classes.”

A similar YouGov poll run in 2013 found 40% of respondents strongly supported the Scottish Government’s proposals that Scotland’s Wild Land should be given special protection from inappropriate development, for example wind farms. With the current finding that 52% strongly agree Wild Land Areas should continue to be protected from large scale infrastructure, this would suggest a rise in strong support for the proposal.

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, and getting involved on social media using the hashtag #keepitwild. 


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