At Ramblers Scotland's annual conference, 15-16 March, a call was made to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to abandon its controversial Cape Wrath purchase.
The MoD plan to buy 58 acres of land on the Cape from current owners the Northern Lighthouse Board (reported here on UKH) is opposed by outdoor groups and the local community in Durness, who would also like to purchase the land. An MoD buyout would extend the existing NATO firing ranges in the area, and despite some promises to the contrary there are fears that this would lead to serious restrictions on public access at Mainland Britain's wild northwestern tip.
At the conference Dick Balharry, President of Ramblers Scotland, called on the Ministry of Defence to abandon its purchase plans and asked the Scottish Government to secure the land for the nation. He also proposed a review be held into the public interest in all the MoD property held in the Cape Wrath area.
'I am calling on all who love the wild places of Scotland to join the Ramblers in this battle to prevent a MoD land grab of Cape Wrath' said Balharry.
'No other European nation would ever consider that such a fantastic part of their coastline should be used as a NATO firing range. The MoD would never consider, for one second, that Land's End or the White Cliffs of Dover should be subject to such abuse. Cape Wrath is an outstanding part of our nation's heritage, an end point for famous walking trails and a vital ingredient in supporting the local economy.'
He also called on the Scottish Government to take action:
'I am very pleased that the local Durness community are doing their best to purchase this land. The Scottish Government must help this process along, but if it proves too difficult to secure the land through this route then the Scottish Government should ensure that a public body takes over ownership, if necessary by compulsory means.'
'I think it's time to ask if we really need a live firing range in the Cape Wrath area. The Scottish Government needs to determine if it is in the public interest as a whole that this use continues, and to conduct whatever negotiations with the Secretary of State for Defence are necessary as a result of such a review.'