Wild land referenced in planning debate at Scottish Parliament

MSPs discuss the Planning (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood

Keep it wild   granite 24 detail

As part of its Keep it Wild campaign, Trust staff were joined on Tuesday in the public gallery at Holyrood by members and supporters to hear MSPs from all parties debate the draft Planning (Scotland) Bill. 

The new legislation currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament has the potential to improve the protection and enhancement of our environment, including Scotland’s unique network of Wild Land Areas. During the debate the Trust was delighted that two MSPs made specific reference to wild land, with Alex Cole-Hamilton (Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western) making reference to the need for the bill:- “to contain enhanced protections and designations for wild land.”

The debate followed publication last week of the Local Government & Communities’ Committee report into Stage 1 of the Bill. The Committee has recommended that the Bill incorporates a Purpose of Planning, recognising the role this can play in creating high quality places and in protecting and enhancing the environment. This is an aspect on which the Trust has submitted evidence.  Graham Simpson (Scottish Conservative & Unionist MSP for Central Scotland), in common with a number of MSPs, raised this issue in the debate, asking:-

“What is the purpose of the bill? No one knows. If it is to deliver more housing, there is nothing in it that would deliver houses in any great numbers. If it is about protecting the environment, our green spaces and our precious wild land or about conserving our buildings, that is not obvious. It could be about all those things. We consider that the purpose should be set out in the bill.”

A key aspect of the debate was the fact that the Bill, as currently drafted, does not intend to introduce an Equal Right of Appeal. This would level the playing field in planning – currently developers have a right of appeal but affected individuals and communities do not. The Committee’s report highlighted the long-standing calls by communities and campaigners for a fairer planning system and this was raised by many MSPs during the debate.

The Bill now moves to Stage 2 of the Parliamentary process, during which time MSPs will be able to propose “Amendments” to the Bill. The Trust will be continuing its work to encourage MSPs to put down Amendments that will give stronger environmental and wild land protection, and to create a level playing field in planning.

The Trust will be seeking help from members and supporters during Stage 2. Please look out for further updates by email or check our campaign page for the latest information.

Read a transcript of the debate (you might have to scroll up around to get to the relevant section). 

You can also watch a tv recording  on the Scottish Parliament's website.