Survey: Majority Want Better Wild Land Protection

A newly released report, Public Perception Survey of Wildness in Scotland, shows a high level of public support for better wild land protection - at a time when it is being lost to development at a rapid rate.

Distance from a road, absence of industry, rough terrain - it doesn't get much wilder than Fisherfield, 212 kb
Distance from a road, absence of industry, rough terrain - it doesn't get much wilder than Fisherfield
© Dan Bailey

Commissioned jointly by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Scottish Natural Heritage, the report aims to help these organisations develop their understanding of the public perception of 'wildness' in Scotland, and to support future wildness mapping (what's that? see UKH news here) by providing a set of weights which can be used to combine the various attributes that people assign to 'wild' land - such as remoteness from roads, naturalness of land cover and the presence of man-made structures.

'Respondents placed a greater level of importance on the protection of wild areas than economic development'

Conducted online with a 'nationally representative' sample of over 1000 people across Scotland, combined with separate smaller surveys of National Park residents and members of interested organisations (such as the MCofS), the report measures how much people use the outdoors, how they perceive the idea of wildness and how much they value wild areas.

The findings reveal widespread public appreciation of wild land in Scotland, and highlight concerns that it may be under threat. Even among people resident within the two National Parks respondents placed a greater level of importance on the protection of wild areas than economic development.

Key figures from the survey show that:

  • 38% of respondents in the main sample indicated that they visited the outdoors at least once a week, while only 6% indicated that they never make such visits. 81 per cent visit the outdoors at least every few months
  • 72 per cent consider it 'very important' that Scotland has wild areas
  • 60 per cent feel that wild areas in Scotland are under threat
  • 77 per cent believe it is 'very important' to protect wild areas
  • 86 per cent believe further action is needed to preserve wild land in Scotland

The survey suggests people value wild land for its wildlife, its connection with Scottish culture and heritage, its natural beauty, its contribution to the diversity of our landscape, its recreational use and its international renown.

Of those who believe that further action is needed to protect Scotland's wild land, the most widely supported measures are, in descending order of popularity:

  • Specific 'wild land' designation
  • Effective planning control for wind turbines
  • Effective planning control for buildings
  • Effective planning control for telephone masts and pylons
  • Reintroductions of species

Each of these measures was supported by at least a third of those surveyed.

Commenting on the report, Stuart Brooks, the Chief Executive of landscape conservation charity the John Muir Trust, said:

'This survey confirms that the vast majority of us believe that protecting wildness is essential. Scotland has some of the most magnificent wild land in Europe, which attracts visitors from across the globe and people are worried it is being industrialised and lost.'

'These figures should provide politicians from all political parties with the confidence to take immediate action and put protection measures in place. It shows that the John Muir Trust and other conservation charities are in tune with public opinion when we say that our wild land is more than just a resource to be exploited for commercial gain, but a precious, priceless asset that needs to be protected for future generations not yet born.'

Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust, added:

'The proportion of wild land left in Scotland is shrinking at an alarming rate. In 2002, 41 per of Scotland's landmass was free of any visual impact from man-made structures; by the end of 2009, that proportion had shrunk to just 28 per cent. In the past three years, if anything the destruction of our wild land has accelerated as industrial-scale wind farms spread across some of our most scenic and ecologically sensitive landscapes.'

'The John Muir Trust has already lodged a petition to the Scottish Parliament seeking a new wild land designation, as the most robust means of ensuring the protection of our finest wild land. It is heartening to see that there is widespread public support for this action.'

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