TOMORROW morning I’ll be heading to Edinburgh in the company of the John Muir Trust to hand in a petition to the Scottish Parliament calling for the creation of a national environmental designation to protect wild land.
When I was a youngster I discovered on the edge of Glasgow a kind of landscape that was to change my life.
I was born in Govan, an area where there was little evidence of hope. In discovering wild land, I was given a glimpse of what could be.
I discovered natural beauty; I discovered a place where man’s grimy hand was not dominant; I found a release that filled me with a kind of optimism I hadn’t previously known and I discovered very quickly that there was a greater creative force at work other than those forces I saw in the mean streets of Glasgow.
Today, in these economically straightened times one of the few free pleasure left, a pleasure that is open to anyone despite their background, is to walk in and be inspired by wild land and wild nature. This is a common right that can be enjoyed by anyone who is in reasonable health at a time when life, for many, is almost beyond hope. But we are losing these areas of wild land at an alarming rate.
In 2008, Scottish Natural published a study showing the proportion of Scotland untouched by artificial visual intrusions had fallen from 41% to 31% since 2002. Today that figure is believed to have fallen below 30% as more projects, including the Beauly to Denny power line, get the go-ahead.
The same study claimed that 47 operational wind farms were responsible for affecting 20% of Scotland’s countryside. That number has risen to 60 wind farms and, with no end in sight to future developments, Scotland’s precious natural heritage could soon be altered beyond recognition.
A Scottish government who has any pride in this nation should realise the importance of these places, in a philosophical, aesthetic and recreation sense, other than only an economic sense. We can boast some of the finest examples of wild land in Europe, and we know that these wild areas have shaped the character and heritage of what the rest of the world knows as Scotland.
Tomorrow I’ll be urging the Scoittish Parliament to show the world that Scotland can be a world leader in environmental terms by protecting those wild places we have left, a vanishing but precious resource in an increasingly industrialised world. Scotland can still be a leader in renewable energy, but surely not at any cost. Countries like France and Switzerland can have great renewable energy industries while still protecting their valuable wild land areas. Why can’t we in Scotland?
It only takes a political will and tomorrow JMT chief executive Stuart Brooks and I will be asking the Scottish Parliament to create a national environmental designation to protect the wild land of Scotland, before it’s too late.
This is the Parliament that proudly gave the Scottish public the legal right to walk in and enjoy Scotland’s wild places. May it be as radical now as it was then and protect those same wild lands for our children and our grandchildren. If politicians, industrialists, developers and money grabbing landowners insist in taking the Bonnie out of Bonnie Scotland, then I fear they will never be forgiven and Scotland as a nation will have lost something that is integral to its character and to its heritage. And we will have lost it forever.