Scottish Government consultation reveals 2 to 1 support for wild land

Responses to recent Scottish Government consultation show broad range of people and organisations want better protection for wild land.

Responses to a recent Scottish Government consultation show that a broad range of people and organisations, forming a 2 to 1 majority, want better protection for Scotland’s wild land.

Of over 150 submissions to the Scottish Planning Policy consultation document expressing an opinion on wild land, well over 100 back the Scottish Government’s proposal to strengthen protection for 43 core areas of wild land as mapped by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Those supporting wild land protection include individuals, environmental and other charities, outdoors organisations, small businesses, local authorities, community councils,  professional bodies and some landowners.

Fewer than 50 responses oppose the proposal – almost all from energy corporations, landowners and property developers with a financial interest in making profit from wild land. Far from being at the forefront of the fight against climate change, many of these corporations are involved in large scale exploitation of fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas.

More than two thirds of hostile responses were submitted by companies based outside Scotland, with more than one third from overseas multinationals based in the USA and Europe. In contrast, a resounding majority of those supporting wild land protection were from Scotland.

Significantly, no environmental organisation opposed the proposal.

The Scottish Government had originally intended to finalise Scottish Plannihg Policy this autumn, but that timetable has now been delayed until June 2014.

Submissions supporting strengthened wild land protection

•    60 individuals
•    16 local authorities, community councils and local campaign groups
•    16 charities (including 14 environmental and outdoors organisations)
•    16 businesses (including some landowners, planners and the Federation of Small Businesses)
•    3 professional bodies
•    1 political party

Submissions opposing wild land protection

•    28 energy companies
•    16 property developers/ planners/ landowners
•    2 local authorities
•    1 professional body
•    1 umbrella body for the renewables industry
•    1 individual

Responding to the submissions, John Hutchison, chairman of the Trust said: “Wild land is a precious, finite resource and it’s heartening that so many different people and groups have shown that they care about protecting it.

“The negative responses from energy corporations and property developers confirm that industrialisation of our wild land is driven, not by concern over climate change, but by profit. Global corporations see Scotland’s natural heritage as a resource to be plundered, while ordinary people, communities and environmentalists see it as a precious asset to be protected, nourished and restored.”

John Muir Trust chief executive Stuart Brooks added: “We urgently need effective action to combat climate change but converting large swathes of wild land to industrial development is not the answer.

“Protecting our natural capital and investing in peatland and woodland conservation, recreation and tourism will deliver a far higher and more sustainable return on investment for the benefit of local communities, the nation and the health of the planet.”

Note: An additional 45-50 submissions expressed general concern about wind farms, some at a local level, with others calling for a blanket ban on all wind development. We have excluded these from our figures because they make no mention of wild land, nor did they tick the relevant box in the consultation questionnaire.

Some of the organisations opposing stronger wild land protection

AES Wind
– based in Virginia USA, generated $17 billion revenue in 2011 mainly from production of coal, gas oil, diesel and coke. It has an application to develop Glenmorie on a core wild land area in Sutherland.

– a London-based property multinational with 500 offices worldwide, which sells prime real estate, included landed estates, in Scotland.

Peel Energy
– a subsidiary of Manchester-based property development company, the Peel Group. The company owns 16 million square feet of retail parks worth £6.7bn including Braehead in Glasgow, the Metro Centre in Tyneside, the Trafford Centre in Manchester, and developments in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Costa Del Sol.

– The UK arm of Germany’s second biggest energy corporation, which is involved in coal, gas and nuclear. It has 10 wind farms in Scotland and is awaiting a decision on the controversial Allt Duine wind farm application on core wild land on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park.

Fred Olsen
– Norwegian-based international drilling contractor involved in oil and gas exploration in Texas, Nigeria, the North Sea and Asia.

EDF Energy
– based in France and the third largest corporation in Europe. EDF builds fossil fuel power plants and nuclear plants in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America, and has threatened to sue climate change campaigners for £5 million. Several EDF staff were jailed for spying on Greenpeace and it was forced to pay the environmental organisation £450,000 in damages.

Pinsent and Masons LLP
– London-based corporate law firm that provides legal services to oil, gas, nuclear and coal industry.