|Will areas like Allt Duine in the Monadh Liath hills now be protected?|
After years of campaigning by many organisations and individuals the Scottish Government has finally decided to protect most of Scotland’s wild land. Today draft proposals for a new planning policy have been published that specify where wind farms will be prohibited. The key passages in the Government statement are the following:
In relation to wind farms, proposals also include strengthening environmental protection in the 31 per cent of Scotland covered by our wildest and most scenic land, including no wind farms in the 19 per cent of Scotland covered by National Parks and National Scenic Areas.
At the same time Scottish Natural Heritage has published its map of wildland with details of how this was done. SNH says:
The Scottish Government has proposed that our work to map areas of wild land (that will in time replace the 2002 map of search areas), be used to identify 'core areas of wild land character' which need to be given significant protection from wind farm development under Scottish Planning Policy.
The combination of National Scenic Areas and core areas of wild land, which overlap but are not exactly the same, should mean that most of Scotland’s magnificent landscape is protected from wind farms (and, hopefully, any other destructive developments). It is interesting to compare the two maps – wild land and NSAs. If all the land covered by them is protected it will be wonderful.
I think the Scottish Government is to be congratulated for listening to those of us who have called for such protection and for realising the importance and value of wild land. The new planning policy won’t be finalised until the end of the year. I hope that no new wind farms in wild land will be permitted before then. The proposals are now open for consultation and I expect that many people and organisations will want to comment.
Unsurprisingly many conservation, environmental and renewable energy groups have already reacted online – and far more will I expect. Amongst those who have responded are Cameron McNeish, who has been directly involved in discussions with Scottish ministers, with an excellent piece in his Walk Highlands column, along with RSPB Scotland (who welcome the proposals though with some reservations) and ScottishRenewables (who aren’t happy).