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Wild land report raises concerns over protection of Highland mountain scenery


By Niall Harkiss

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Wild areas such as mountains, moorlands, lochs and rivers and coasts with limited human impact have been labelled as ‘Wild Land Areas’ by NatureScot
Wild areas such as mountains, moorlands, lochs and rivers and coasts with limited human impact have been labelled as ‘Wild Land Areas’ by NatureScot

A new report on the state of wildlands in the Highlands is calling for better protection of its mountain scenery.

Wild areas such as mountains, moorlands, lochs and rivers and coasts with limited human impact have been labelled as ‘Wild Land Areas’ by NatureScot.

The newly published report, commissioned by the Scottish Wild Land Group in association with the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and The Cairngorms Campaign, shows that Scotland's 'wildness' is in long-term decline because of the continuing pressure for development, both within the wild land areas and around their fringes.

The report concludes that the overall rate of loss appears to be increasing as the scale of development has also increased.

Developments identified as posing the greatest threat are energy generation and associated infrastructure (hydro-electric schemes and wind farms), plantation forest expansion and hill track construction, the latter often associated with estate management.

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on its strategic plans for the country through the draft National Planning Framework 4.

Scottish Wild Land Group have stated that if Scotland, and particularly the Highlands, is to retain its reputation for its iconic scenery, it is imperative that the importance of its protection, including its wildness, is fully recognised in the new framework.

This should include, the group says, stronger protection for Wild Land Areas than is currently envisaged.

Dr James Fenton of the Scottish Wild Land Group, who coordinated the report, said: "There has long been a mismatch between the commonly stated view that the Highlands are renowned for their scenery and the practical measures in place for its protection.

"This report should be a wake-up call for us all to realise that the Highland landscape is under threat from ill-sited development.

"If we really do care for our scenery, we must ensure that there is strong protection for it in the planning system, including the Wild Land Areas. Otherwise attrition of this fantastic asset will continue apace, and, in time, future generations will inherit an impoverished landscape.

"Of course we need development in the Highlands, but it must be in the right place and not destroy what is the essence of the Highland mountain landscape."

The report is available to download from the Scottish Wild Land Group’s website: www.swlg.org.uk.


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