Full marks to the John Muir Trust for a fine piece of PR footwork earlier this week.
The wild land charity published the findings of a new survey of public attitudes to Scotland’s wild places, be they mountain or glen, moorland or forest.
The Public Perception Survey of Wildness in Scotland was meat and drink to the organisation, particularly in its ongoing fight against wind farm developments that impact on Scotland’s rural landscape.
But it wasn’t actually the JMT’s report. It was commissioned jointly by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Although you can, after a bit of research, find the report on their websites, these bodies didn’t make much of it. But it was too good for the JMT to leave it at that because the report found that 81% of us visit the outdoors at least every few months; 72% consider it very important that Scotland has wild areas; 60% feel that wild areas in Scotland are under threat; 77% believe it is very important to protect wild areas ; and 86% believe further action is needed to preserve wild land in Scotland.
The survey shows 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 believed that further action is needed to protect Scotland’s wild land, the most widely supported measures were, 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; and reintroductions of species. Each of these measures was supported by at least a third of those surveyed. Stuart Brooks, chief executive of 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% 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%.
“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.”
Herald – 5th October 2012