Protect what's left of Scotland's wild land

Posted by Carey Davies on 26/02/2015
The extraordinary wild region of Assynt in north-west Scotland. Photo: Shutterstock / Robert Partis

The BMC's sister organisation in Scotland has challenged decision makers to support a new vision for the future of the country’s mountains and wild land – a major resource increasingly under threat.

And the public are being asked to add their weight to the call, by signing an online petition demanding that recognised areas of wild land are protected from large scale development.

Just weeks after highlighting shortcomings in the Scottish Government’s handling of wind farm applications, where counsel from its own advisors is too often ignored by Ministers, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has challenged the Government and all politicians to take a more positive view of our mountains.

After wide consultation, The MCofS, which represents climbers and hill walkers in Scotland, has published ‘Respecting Scotland’s Mountains: MCofS Vision for the Future’, which points the way ahead to a sustainable future where appropriate development and conservation can go side by side.

MCofS President Brian Linington said: “We call on Politicians to protect and promote our mountains as the incredible asset that they are, to open their eyes to the permanent damage being done to this irreplaceable resource by ill-considered developments.

“With a General Election looming the moment has come for all the political parties to be absolutely clear that they are committed to the protection of our mountains and wild places. They can do this by joining us in working for a future which respects our natural heritage and makes the most of it for our country and its people.”

At the same time as speaking directly to politicians and decision-makers, the MCofS has appealed to the public to get involved by signing a petition on 38 Degrees urging better protection of Scotland’s remaining wild land.

The proportion of Scotland from which built development cannot be seen has dropped by two fifths in just 11 years, to 27 per cent in 2013. The petition calls for a ban on further industrial development on the remaining wild land, as mapped by Scottish National Heritage last year.

The petition seeks wider public support for the message in the Respecting Scotland’s Mountains booklet.

Five elements

At its heart of Respecting Scotland’s Mountains is the vision: “That Scotland protects and respects its mountains and wild places whilst encouraging people to enjoy the mountains in a responsible manner.”

It is built on five key elements:

  • That our mountains and wild land should be safeguarded as an irreplaceable natural, cultural and economic asset.
  • That the mountains provide opportunity to develop and improve informal recreation, tourism and health and wellbeing.
  • That Scotland should harness the potential of mountains and wild land to contribute to a foundation for sustainable futures for fragile rural communities.
  • That change should be planned and regulated to enhance rather than diminish our wild lands and mountains.
  • And, finally, that appreciation and enjoyment of the mountains – including good practice and responsibility – should be promoted from childhood.

Two major areas of concern highlighted in the document are inappropriately-sited wind farms and the lack of effective control over damaging hill tracks.

It also emphasises the need to support fragile local economies in highland areas, saying sustainable businesses can be created by making the most of mountains as places for recreation and leisure, but stating: “To do this their wild quality must be maintained – if not, the evidence increasingly shows that visitors will go elsewhere.”

And it underlines the role of mountains in tackling Scotland’s major health challenges associated with lack of exercise and stress.

It says: “People need to be encouraged to go out and experience the beauty, enjoy the exercise and benefit from the relaxation that our mountains can provide.”

Copies of ‘Respecting Scotland’s Mountains’ have been sent to each of Scotland’s 129 MSPs and to its 59 MPs, as well as councillors and heads of planning in the national parks and local authority areas which include mountains, and to government agencies with responsibility for environmental matters.

The aim is to raise awareness of the value and vulnerability of Scotland’s world-renowned landscape and encourage the country’s decision-makers to see that protection and pragmatism go hand in hand when deciding future policy.

Respecting Scotland’s Mountains: MCofS Vision for the Future is downloadable here.

The 38 Degrees petition can be accessed here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/wild-land.

The MCofS is the BMC's sister organisation in Scotland. The BMC partly funds its access and conservation officer post. 



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