A petition backed by more than 3,500 people to demand action to protect wild land will be presented to the Scottish Parliament today (Tuesday 25 January 2011).
The John Muir Trust, the UK’s leading wild land charity, is submitting the petition to the Scottish Parliament as part of its Wild Land Campaign, which aims to secure greater protection for the UK’s best areas of wild land.
The petition calls on the Scottish Government to improve protection for the best areas of wild land by introducing a new national environmental designation.
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust said: “Our vision is that wild land is protected and wild places are valued by all sectors of society. This petition is the first step in making the case for a new designation to protect Scotland’s wild land areas.”
“At the moment there is inadequate protection for landscapes in our most important wild land areas. Half of Scotland’s best wild land has no environmental protection, and only a third is protected by a national landscape designation.
“Wild land has a wide variety of benefits. It is home to some of our most iconic wildlife and provides us with things vital to our everyday lives like fresh water and clean air. 92% of visitors to Scotland cite the fantastic scenery we have as the main reason for coming here.
“In 2003 visitors coming to Scotland’s wild areas contributed as much as £751m to the economy, supporting 20,600 jobs.”
Wild land areas in the UK comprise some of our most iconic and sensitive landscapes and are mainly restricted to Northern and Western Scotland, as well as some areas of upland England and Wales and Northern Ireland.
Wild land is defined as large areas with spectacular scenery and high wildlife value. There is very little evidence of human activity in these areas and they typically include mountains, tracts of blanket bog, river margins and rugged coastlines.
Writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish, who is supporting the Trust’s Wild Land Campaign, said: “For over 40 years the wild places of Scotland have provided me, and countless others, with the sustenance of redemption. It’s the wild hills and glens that I turn to when I need to flush from my mind the problems, anxieties and stresses of twenty-first century living.”
“Our areas of wild land, those rugged regions that have given Scotland its unique character and identity, are under threat as never before. If we go on losing wild land at the present rate then there is a real risk that our nation will lose its unique identity and our society will move into a bland cultural placelessness.”
The Trust has used mapping by the Wildland Research Institute, University of Leeds to find the top ten percent wild land in the UK. The amount of this area in Scotland without protection from any environmental designation is 50.4%. The amount covered by National Scenic Areas, a designation which is designed to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, is 33.6%.
According to research by Scottish Natural Heritage, between 2002 and 2008 the area of Scotland unaffected by the visual impact of development fell from 41% to 31%.