New poll finds 4 out of 5 Scots back wild land protection

YouGov poll finds 80 per cent want to keep Wild Land Areas free of major development - while just five per cent disagree

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By a colossal 16 to 1 majority the Scottish public has given its backing to continued protection of Wild Land Areas, according to a new YouGov poll commissioned by the John Muir Trust.

The poll found that 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 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.

The poll found that 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.

As the poll was published, the Trust launched a new ‘Keep it Wild’ campaign to persuade the Scottish Government to end confusion over the status of Wild Land Areas by bringing them in line with National Scenic Areas and National Parks, which have absolute protection from large-scale wind farms.

Since the Wild Land Areas map was approved in June 2014, and recognised as requiring ‘significant protection’ in national planning policy, seven major wind farms on Wild Land Areas have been refused consent. However, a decision late last year to consent the Creag Rhiabhach wind farm at Altnaharra has left the status of wild land in doubt. 

Responding to the poll findings, Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the 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.

“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.

“But its future has been thrown into doubt by the decision to approve Creag Riabhach, which is now being challenged in the courts.

“Because of that, we have launched a new ‘Keep it Wild’ campaign to persuade the Scottish Government to provide additional protection for Wild Land Areas in the forthcoming Planning Bill, in line with current restraints on development within National Scenic Areas and National Parks.

“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.”

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. 

 * The total sample size was 1,028 Scottish adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18 and 22 May 2017. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults aged 18+. Read the results of the YouGov wild land survey.

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