|Wind turbines & power lines in the Southern Uplands|
The future of wild land in Scotland is at a crossroads. Recent statements and events suggest that the next few months, perhaps just the next few weeks, will determine how much wild land will survive and whether wind turbines with their accompanying power lines and bulldozed roads will destroy even more than they have already.
Back in 2009 Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the government body meant to look after the landscape, stated that the area of wild land in Scotland had dropped from 41% in 2002 to 28% and that wind turbines were the main cause. SNH are supposed to be producing an up-to-date map of wild land which they have been working on for over two years. This week a committee of Members of theScottish Parliament (MSPs) will meet with SNH to ask how the mapping is progressing. This follows a debate in the Scottish Parliament on a petition from the John Muir Trust (JMT), one of the leaders in the campaign for wild land. This mapping is crucial as it would determine which areas need protection. This may seem obvious to those of us who go out into the hills but for the purposes of designation lines on maps are required.
|Wind turbines on the Southern Upland Way|
At the same time in a piece for Walk Highlands (who report regularly on wind farms and wild land campaigns) Cameron McNeish says that he has seen the initial mapping and that the area of wild land is still around 28%. Cameron also says that as a Scottish National Party (SNP) member he has had conversations with First Minister Alex Salmond about wild land and that he “is not averse to the idea of setting up turbine-free areas in Scotland”. This sounds promising and would be a good political move for Salmond and the SNP, especially as this is the Year of Natural Scotland which should really have conservation at its heart if it is to have any meaning.
Any move to protect wild land, only a third of which has any statutory protection, needs to be done soon as wind farm applications are coming in thick and fast and some that would be disastrous if built have been given the go-ahead by local councils. In particular this applies to the giant 67 turbine Stronelairg wind farm proposed for the Monadh Liath hills above Fort Augustus and the Great Glen which was approved by Highland Council recently and Glencassley wind farm in Sutherland which will be considered by Highland Council soon. The final decision for these huge industrial developments lies with the Scottish Government. If Ministers are serious about protecting wild land and about the Year of Natural Scotland then all such wind farms should be rejected.
|Bulldozed road in the Eastern Highlands|
Setting up designations to protect wild land, something that could be a long drawn-out bureaucratic process, needs to be done quickly. Expanding National Scenic Areas that already exist could be the answer in the short term. Over a longer period more national parks have been proposed by the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) and the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) covering The Cheviots, Galloway, Glen Affric, Harris, Mull and parts of Lochaber including Ben Nevis and Glencoe. I’d expand that greatly to include virtually all the Highlands, including Skye.
|The Beauly-Denny Power Line under construction|
At this crisis point for wild land the balance could easily be tipped either way. To push it towards protection and conservation contacting Alex Salmond and the Scottish Government to call for turbine-free areas is well worth while. It can be done here and here. Every little bit really can help and time is short. If we want wild land in the future we have to make an effort to save it now.