Boost for wild land designation campaign

Public Petitions Committee criticises Government inaction over Trust petition

The Scottish Parliament’s Petition Committee has discussed how to progress the wild land designation petition, two years after the Trust’s petition was lodged.

Most members of the committee, across all parties, agreed that the petition should be continued and that the Chief Executive and Chair of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) should be invited to report on their progress on wild land mapping, which has been underway for several years.

Members of the committee, including SNP MSP John Wilson, expressed disappointment at the inadequate response of the Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, who had said he was “not persuaded by the case for designation”.

Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust said: “The committee members were clearly not persuaded by Paul Wheelhouse’s dismissal of the case for designation.

“This was a welcome and mature discussion by the Public Petitions Committee and we are pleased by their recognition of the urgent need to get answers on the issues raised by the petition, and to invite senior officials of SNH to explain where they are with wild land mapping.

“It was also clear that some MSPs were unhappy that the Environment Minister had effectively pre-empted a public consultation by declaring his scepticism about wild land designation while simultaneously promising to seek people’s views on wild land.

“We’re running out of time. Two years ago, when our petition was delivered to Parliament, SNH warned of the dangers of leaving it too late to take action. Since then, development pressure on our wild land has grown more intense.  

“SNH statistics show that, in 2002, 41 per cent of Scotland was unaffected visually by built development. By 2009, this had reduced to 28 per cent and no updated figure is available.  The question is, how much more of our best natural landscape has disappeared by 2013?

“In the Year of Natural Scotland it would be fitting if this petition were to lead to a wild land designation giving legal protection to Scotland’s internationally renowned wild landscapes.”

To add your support for a new designation to protect Scotland’s wild land you can write to your MSPs (or Minister for Environment and Climate Change).