Background reading - Keep it Wild campaign

Published: 21st December 2017

Find out more about the issues driving our Keep it Wild campaign

Scotland's Wild Land Areas

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. Wild land and its distinctive landscapes, ecology, geology and archaeology draw thousands of visitors each year, making a vital contribution to local businesses and communities. Wild land fulfils a vital ecological function too, with vast peatlands storing carbon and home to rare wildlife. Wild land is a place where nature can be enhanced and regenerated, building new opportunities for remote communities in growing markets such as wildlife tourism. Scotland’s wild land has been recognised in a network of 42 official “Wild Land Areas” – see map here The map illustrates the most extensive areas of high wildness in Scotland. Wild Land Areas are not a statutory designation but under Scottish Planning Policy are considered nationally important and requiring protection. However, the level of protection they have is not as strong as for National Parks and National Scenic Areas.

More about our YouGov poll

There is strong public support for wild land protection. A YouGov poll for the John Muir Trust found that 4 out of 5 Scots back wild land protection, with support across all age groups and geographical regions. The Highlands and Islands, where most of Scotland’s wild land is located, have the highest proportion of people (60 per cent) who strongly agree with the protection of Wild Land Areas and another 20% who "agree."

Wild land under threat - why the Planning Bill needs amended

In recent years developers have been targeting wild land as possible sites for industrial-scale wind farms. The most recent of these to be given permission is Creag Riabhach, near Altnaharra in the far north of Scotland. This will see 22-turbines up to 125m tall, five within Wild Land Area 37. This was the first time permission had been given for commercial turbines within the boundaries of an official "Wild Land Area." Given the pressure wild land is under from wind farm development, we think the Scottish Government should give Wild Land Areas the same protection from wind farms as National Parks and National Scenic areas. 

Yes to reducing carbon emissions – but not by building industrial-scale wind farms in Wild Land Areas

We don't dispute the need for renewable energy projects and we support the Government’s aim of reducing carbon emissions by the most effective methods, but we don't think building industrial-scale wind farms in Wild Land Areas is the answer. There needs to be a stronger focus than before on energy efficiency and reduction, as well as more support for the growing potential for other technologies such as solar power.