This week Holyrood considers Scotland's new National Planning Framework. Conservation charity the John Muir Trust has urged MSPs to resist lobbying pressure from those with a major financial interest in 'sabotaging' the wild land map that was recently brought out by Scottish Natural Heritage to help inform planning policy.
Tomorrow parliament will debate the latest draft of the Scottish Government’s new draft National Planning Framework 3. A commitment to ‘strong protection for our wildest landscapes’ in the original draft has been removed from the latest version.
But since this new version was published, independent experts have analysed the results of a public consultation on the SNH map, which show strong public support for the designation and protection of wild land within the planning system (see UKH news).
Over 400 submissions were received by the consultation on the wild land map – twice as many as for the consultations on the drink driving limit and corroboration combined.
Of these submissions, 73 per cent were in favour of protecting wild land, including a decisive majority of individuals, third sector organisations and local authorities.
The main voices opposed were, in contrast, big power corporations with an interest in wind farms. These are very much in the minority, yet they appear to conservationists to be wielding considerable power over planning policy. On whose behalf, it might be asked, are planning decisions in Scotland to be taken?
In the light of the findings, the John Muir Trust has written to every MSP in advance of Tuesday’s parliamentary debate asking them to support the reinstatement of the wild land map into the National Planning Framework.
Helen McDade, Head of Policy for the John Muir Trust said:
'We are urging MSPs from across all parties to stand up for Scotland’s wild land against powerful financial interests who see it as [a] commodity to be exploited for money rather than a national treasure to be protected.'
'Over the past year, the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage have come under pressure from energy companies and some private landowners to scrap or diminish the Core Areas of Wild Land map.'
'They demanded that the wild land map be put out to public consultation. That consultation has now been completed and the results underline the fact that the energy companies are in a small minority in their opposition to a wild land map of Scotland.'
'In the light of these findings, the planning minister should now restate the commitment to strong preotection for wild land that was in the original draft.'