Trust welcomes cross-party support for wild land protection

MSPs debate Scotland's proposed National Planning Framework 3.

Following a debate in the Scottish Parliament on a national planning document on Tuesday 18 March, the John Muir Trust welcomed cross-party support for the final document to explicitly recognise the value of Scotland's wildest landscapes.

In the wide-ranging debate on Scotland's National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3), MSPs from Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and the Green parties agreed that it would be appropriate to include a phrase along the lines of " the Government wishes to continue strong protection for our wildest landscapes".

This phrase had been in the original draft document which was sent out to public consultation last summer, but had been removed from the most recent version.

In reply to the debate, Derek Mackay, the Minister for Planning, said that while the detailed wild land map should be included in planning guidance, it also made sense to include a reference to wild land in the NPF3.

Cameron Buchanan, Conservative MSP for Lothian, said he was persuaded of the John Muir Trust's request that this statement should be re-instated, and that to exclude wild land from the NPF 3 would be "nonsensical".

Jim Hume, Liberal Democrat MSP for South of Scotland, highlighted the strong public support for wild land protection, with 73 per cent of respondents to SNH's consultation on a wild land map supporting the use of the Core Areas of Wild Land (CAWL) map in planning.

Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Uddingston and Belshill, also argued that wild land protection should be mentioned in NPF3.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian, supported the principle of protecting wild land and including such a commitment in the NPF3, although this should not mean a blanket ban on all renewable developments.

Following the debate, Helen McDade, John Muir Trust head of policy, said: "It's heartening to see a consensus among our politicians that wild land should be protected as part of Scotland's unique natural heritage.

“It is especially encouraging that the Minister has said that final decisions would be evidence-based, and that the government had been waiting for the independent analysis of the recent Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) consultation on the Core Areas of Wild Land map.

That analysis has now been published and reveals overwhelming support for wild land protection among all groups apart from energy companies.

“Unless the industry is able to exert undue influence on Scottish planning policy over the next few months, then it looks likely that the importance of wild land will be spelled out in the final NPF3. We're delighted".

Stuart Brooks, John Muir Trust chief executive added: “Across Europe there is a surge in support for wilderness and wild land protection, with politicians across the spectrum recognising the key role that such land plays in reducing greenhouse gases and sustaining human, plant and animal life.

"Wild land is also one of Scotland’s greatest economic assets, helping to attract millions of tourists a year, and sustain thousands of jobs. After this impressive cross-party expression of support for wild land protection, we are more confident than ever before that goal is now within our reach.

"We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to argue the case for wild land protection, including our own members and supporters, other environmental and outdoor organisations, community groups, local authorities, and those MSPs who spoke up in the Holyrood debate."

The National Planning Framework is expected to be finalised by the Scottish Parliament in June.