Mountains are a very important feature of the wild landscapes of Scotland. They are crucial in shaping the diverse complex ecosystems that underpin the landscapes, and support wildlife, biodiversity, peat conservation and water quality. Mountaineers, climbers and hill walkers cherish these mountains and wild places. Mountaineering Scotland understands their value and the need to protect their special qualities for the benefit of all. We seek to support and develop mountaineering and enjoyment of the mountains. Essential to this is the need to safeguard the wild landscapes that make Scotland special.
The most immediate threats come from inappropriate developments, such as industrial scale wind farms and unsuitable hill tracks, which damage the character and social value of these landscapes.
When wild places are lost, they are gone forever. Experience shows that one development often leads to another, resulting in progressively more damage.
Mountaineering Scotland wants to halt this trend. There must be care for our remaining wild mountain landscapes. A coherent, integrated national policy is needed for mountain areas that defines what can, and cannot, be done in such areas in the future.
This position statement complements our 2009 position statement on Landscape and Access. It clarifies the rationale for our position in relation to recent legislative initiatives by government and how we will respond in the future to proposals for development in Scotlandís mountain areas.
Scotland is famous worldwide for its mountains and wild lands. They are fundamental to our national, cultural, ecological and historical identity.
Over the centuries they have inspired poets, writers, painters and film-makers. Nowadays they are a magnet for visitors. Some come to relax in a beautiful and unspoiled setting, while others want to get out and walk, climb, run, cycle or ski. Many also want to see the wonderful wildlife and plant species.
The vision is underpinned by five key elements:
Fulfilling our vision needs an integrated approach to developing the sport of mountaineering and maintaining our mountain landscapes.
Mountaineering Scotland will support the vision by working to achieve:
Wild land and mountains are valued by most of Scotlandís residents (a Scottish Natural Heritage survey says 91%) and large numbers go walking and climbing.
A remarkable 55% of visitors (65% among first-timers) told a VisitScotland survey that they mainly come here for the scenery and landscape. Tourism is worth around £11bn a year. VisitScotland says it is ďthe engine room of the Scottish economyĒ.
Scotlandís population also faces major health challenges associated with lack of exercise and stress. People need to be encouraged to go out and experience the beauty, enjoy the exercise and benefit from the relaxation that our mountains can provide. This work should start at school and extend to all ages.
Many of the most fragile local economies and vulnerable communities are in highland areas. Sustainable businesses can be created by making the most of mountains as places for recreation and leisure. To do this their wild quality must be maintained Ė if not, the evidence increasingly shows that visitors will go elsewhere (MCofS, Wind Farms and Changing Mountaineering Behaviour in Scotland, March 2014).
Rather than pushing people away, Mountaineering Scotland wants government, local authorities and others to help to make the most of our mountains and wild lands. This can be done by empowering local people to provide the good-quality facilities and services that visitors seek. Such services mean opportunities for local people, contributing to broad-based, diverse and thriving local economies.
Onshore Wind Power Generation
Mountaineering Scotland supports the Scottish Governmentís aim of developing clean, renewable energy sources but opposes developments that threaten the wild landscape of Scottish mountains. The protection for wild land in Scottish Planning Policy 2014 is welcome but falls well short of the absolute protection required.
Our approach to proposed wind farm developments is based on a detailed assessment of each individual proposal taking into account a number of factors:
Footpaths made by man have given access to remote areas for millennia. In the past they were small scale and had minimal impacts on the surrounding environment and landscape.
Availability of mechanised earth moving equipment has facilitated the construction of tracks that are relatively wide, sometimes long, and often damaging to the overall landscape.
Mountaineering Scotland appreciates that land managers need to access remote areas and that hill tracks facilitate this. Mountaineering Scotland also acknowledges that mountaineers use these tracks to access the hills. However, we are concerned at the recent unconstrained proliferation of intrusive tracks in wild areas.
While welcoming the Scottish Governmentís current moves to bring tracks into the planning system, its new measures are too weak and fail to ensure democratic oversight. Local authority staff are under immense pressure and need adequate time to evaluate all proposals. A default position in which notifications not responded to within 28 days can proceed is unacceptable. All hill tracks should require planning permission.
Government and local planners must guarantee that certain factors are taken into account when approving the building of new hill tracks:
Managing recreational activity
Because of the wider societal benefits which accrue, it is good news that the popularity of mountaineering and other recreational activities in wild lands is growing. But this has an impact. Mountaineering Scotland wishes to work with other bodies to help manage the mountain environment to maximise the recreational benefits and minimise the environmental impacts:
The 21st century will continue to bring pressure on our mountain landscapes that could never previously have been imagined.
Realisation of our vision would see a mountain environment that is enjoyed by people in a responsible way, maintained as wild land by the highest standards of management, and preserved from damaging development.
These are achievable practical outcomes, and the least that future generations will expect.
Specifically, Mountaineering Scotland will:
Since our foundation as the Mountaineering Council of Scotland over 40 years ago, Mountaineering Scotland has been representing the views and needs of hill walkers, mountaineers, climbers and snowsports tourers. We work closely with our members, the media, partner organisations, the government and landowners to make a real difference on the matters that affect us all.
By becoming a member of Mountaineering Scotland, you are supporting this work and adding your voice to that of 14,000 other members by getting involved in our campaigns to protect access rights and encourage sustainable mountain environments.