‘We need strong leadership to save our wild land’

Trust presses Scotland’s Environment Minister on the environmental, social and economic benefits of protection.

Replying to letters from Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, which set out his views on wild land protection, the John Muir Trust has said that a national designation to protect Scotland’s best wild land could save public money, reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions, boost international tourism and create jobs in remote rural communities.

The Minister will be asked to give evidence in person to the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee, which is currently considering a petition from the Trust calling for a new national wild land designation. In a recent letter to the John Muir Trust (31 March 2013) Mr Wheelhouse said that he had received 120 expressions of support for the Trust’s campaign for statutory protection for Scotland’s wild land and stated that the Scottish Government agrees with the John Muir Trust that areas of wild land character should be protected.

He did, however, in an earlier letter to the Public Petitions Committee appear to pre-empt the imminent public consultations on the review of the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy by saying that he is “not persuaded that there is a case for a new statutory designation,” and by suggesting that the current planning procedures provide an adequate safeguard.

Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust, Stuart Brooks, said: “The Trust is pleased that the Scottish Government agrees on the importance of protecting wild land and that they expect that to be taken into account in the revision of planning policy. But we would ask Mr Wheelhouse and his colleagues to keep an open mind about how protection can best be achieved.

“The current planning system is failing lamentably to afford wild land the protection it needs. In the Highlands, for example, planning officials have recommended “no objection” to several very large scale developments, even where those developments mean the loss of vast tracts of wild land and the destruction of ecological systems, including peat bogs that lock in carbon emissions.

John Muir Trust Chairman, John Hutchison said: “A wild land designation would broadcast to the whole world that we have this magnificent natural treasure that’s worth protecting forever. It would be a fantastic boost for our tourist industry, it would give a helping hand to some our most isolated communities and it would cut our carbon emissions by protecting our peatlands.

“A clear-cut designation would also end speculative applications for large scale developments on wild land, which can trigger interminable legal wrangles and costly Public Local Inquiries. In this Year of Scotland, when we are celebrating the birthday of John Muir – the Scot who left the USA a magnificent legacy of great protected wildernesses – we are appealing to the Scottish Government to show strong leadership and work with us to protect our wild land for centuries to come.”

Read the full letter from the John Muir Trust to the Environment Minister here.

Read the Environment Minister’s letter to the John Muir Trust.

Read the Environment Minister’s letter to the Public Petitions Committee