We are campaigning to protect Scotland’s mountains and wild land from insensitive developments, whether its industrial-scale wind farms, poorly designed structures or unsightly bulldozed tracks. Read on for an update on what’s happened so far, what happens next and how you can help further.
We support renewable energy generation and we support economic development for Scotland's rural, upland areas, but it must be sustainable. Like our many campaign partners, we want the Scottish Government to safeguard what makes our mountain landscapes special and update Scotland's planning laws to give definitive protection for ‘wild land’ (as identified by their own conservation body, Scottish Natural Heritage).
We get approached every week by government agencies, local authorities, national parks and developers to comment on proposed wind farms designed to generate more than 50MW. Our decision to respond or object is guided by specific criteria, reflecting our vision, Respecting Scotland's Mountains. We only object to a very small proportion, but if permitted, they could have a huge impact on the wildness of some cherished locations.
We have written to Heads of Planning in the ten local authorities and Scottish national parks urging them to use their powers to ensure the impact of hydro scheme scars on upland areas is mitigated by developers. The responses we received were positive but it is clear that some lack capacity to monitor and follow up these issues.
We have quantified the impact wind farms located in mountain landscapes have on hill-walking behaviour for the first time. In a survey of our members, over two thirds stated that they prefer not to see wind farms when in the mountains and 22% said that they avoided areas with wind farms when planning their activities.
In spring 2016 we set out our manifesto for the mountains with six priority areas for political action. We sent this to over 250 Scottish Parliamentary Election candidates and sitting MSPs. We encouraged our members and supporters to hold their local candidates and canvassers to account on these matters.
We have lent our support to the Save Bennachie Alliance which is working to protect one of the north-east's most iconic hills from several proposed route options for the dualling of the A96 near Inverurie.
Despite some good news for wild land protection - hopefully influenced by the strength of public opinion - we continue to monitor applications for major wind farm developments in mountain areas. Recent trends:
Autumn and winter 2015 saw some positive news with the result of several wind farm planning applications or appeal decisions going in favour of wild land - from Talladh-a-Bheithe on Rannoch Moor, to Carn Gorm near Ben Wyvis, and Sallachy and Glencassley in Sutherland. In each of these cases, "wild land" significance was cited as a major factor.
In spring and summer 2015 a fantastic 12,000 people supported our online petition to ensure Scotland's precious remaining areas of wild land, as identified by Scottish Natural Heritage’s wild land map, are fully protected from large scale development.
TV presenter and walking guru Cameron McNeish, popular landscape photographer Colin Prior, and Diana Gabaldon, writer of global book and TV hit Outlander, which was inspired by Scottish Highlands scenery and history, all joined us in questioning Scotland’s wind farm policy. Gabaldon described plans for the Talladh-a-Bheithe wind farm on Rannoch Moor as “insane”.
Alongside campaign partner organisations, including the John Muir Trust, we wrote to Nicola Sturgeon, calling on her to listen to public demand and show real leadership in government on protecting Scotland’s wild landscapes from insensitive development.
The planning system is open to YOU and it needs to hear your voice if you are concerned about a particular development.
Advice given to Mountaineering Scotland by planning officers is that weight of numbers can influence the acceptance, conditions attached or refusal of a planning application. Politicians and policy are also influenced by public opinion.