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What’s happening? 

Scotland’s fourth draft National Planning Framework (NPF4) will shape how land is used and developed in Scotland. These policies will determine if Scotland can meet its net zero targets, and whether nature in Scotland will recover.

Key points for wild places

The draft NPF4 is out for public consultation. The Trust has submitted our response and we urge you to also have your say before 31 March 2022.

To make it easy to jump straight to the policy areas you care about, the Trust has summarised the key priorities for wild places here.

Why it's important

This plan will impact everyone in Scotland. National Planning Policies guide decisions on what type of development happens in your community, as well as the type of development that happens in the remoter and wilder places of Scotland.  

The plan will determine whether nature recovers in Scotland by 2030 and whether Scotland meets its net zero targets by 2045. It will also determine whether we safeguard our wild places and protect and enhance our peatlands and woodlands for future generations. 

Oscar - Young People and Nature

What will the Trust be saying on behalf of wild places? 

Scotland’s National Planning Policies need to protect our wild places. Doing so can help meet the Scottish Government’s national planning outcomes for nature, human health, climate and biodiversity.    

  • Scotland’s wild places offer natural solutions to the nature and climate emergencies. Scotland’s wild places are a natural store of carbon. Land in Scotland should be helping us to reduce emissions by absorbing carbon dioxide, but instead, it is currently emitting more carbon than it stores. This could be reversed by protecting and restoring Scotland’s wild places, which include Scotland’s peatlands and native woodlands which have the potential to remove 13 Mt CO2e a year – the equivalent of removing every vehicle from Scotland’s roads. 
  • Scotland’s wild places overlap with Scotland’s mapped areas of peatlands. Peatlands are a vital natural store of an estimated 1,600 million tonnes of carbon in Scotland. These rare habitats make up just 3% of the earth’s surface but in Scotland they cover 20% of the land, meaning peatlands here are important globally, as well as nationally. With 80% of Scotland’s peatlands in need of restoration, much more can be done to manage and protect this important carbon store. 
  • Scotland’s wild places matter to people in Scotland. Wild places can mean different experiences for different people and that’s something to celebrate and protect. 83% of respondents to NatureScot’s 2019 public opinion survey agreed that the country’s areas of wild land should be protected and 82% agreed that Scotland's landscapes make an important contribution to the economy.  
  • Scotland’s wild places support human health and wellbeing. The pandemic put a spotlight on a human need for nature as more people sought peace and respite in outdoor places near nature in 2020 and 2021. There is ample evidence of the links between nature connection and wellbeing (please see the Trust's Wild and Well repository). NPF4 policies need to identify and protect wild places for people. 
  • Scotland’s wild places are assets for rural communities. They are not an obstacle to rural population or repopulation. Evidence of this comes through Scotland's community land owning trusts, some of which operate in some of Scotland's best wild places whilst supporting the rural communities living there. For example, The Knoydart Foundation, which owns and manages the 17,200 acre Knoydart Estate, supporting 111 residents, is at the heart of the 55,000 acre peninsula that includes the Kinlochhourn-Knoydart-Morar Wild Land Area. The remote location of this peninsula and the spectacular wild surroundings are part of what defines what it means to live there. There is no evidence to suggest that continued protection of Scotland’s Wild Land Areas from large scale development is an obstacle to repopulation of remote rural Scotland. We believe the opposite is true: they can be the galvanising asset for rural communities. 
  • Scotland’s wild places are places that still sustain and support biodiversity despite the global biodiversity crisis. The State of Nature 2019 Report highlighted the dramatic and depressing decline of biodiversity in Scotland: since 1970, 54% of plants, 44% of birds and 39% of butterfly species in Scotland have declined. This decline in biodiversity has corresponded with an equal decline in the extent of wild places in Scotland as well as the quality of wild places. We know through experience managing Trust land that when habitats are encouraged to return to wild places species return and biodiversity improves. To take biodiversity out of the red and reverse the decline we need to protect and restore Scotland’s wild places. Some of these protections can come through National Planning Policy.  

Find out more  

Watch this introductory video to NPF4 introductory video

Read the draft plan on the Scottish Government's website

Keep up to date with our advocacy work