UP to one-third of Scotland will be off-limits to wind-farm developers under a proposed revamp of planning laws which aims to stop any turbines being placed in the two national parks and other designated scenic areas.

Although the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs parks have never had any large- scale wind-farm developments, the measures will close a potential loophole off from developers.

The ban, outlined in a new national planning network, also extends to National Scenic Areas, which combined with the parks cover 19% of Scotland.

Loading article content

In total, 31% of the nation will be restricted or out of bounds to wind-farm developers under the plans, which are going out for public consulation.

The Scottish Government's third National Planning Framework and draft Scottish Planning Policy, unveiled yesterday, will push new wind-farm developments further away than ever from major population centres.

For the first time, planning policy will refer to wild land drawn up by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and published yesterday.

It highlights dozens of areas with the strongest wild land character, totalling approximately 3.7 million acres of the country's land mass, from Shetland and the Western Isle to the Borders.

Most are in the Highlands including much of the Cairngorms and Monadhliath mountains, around Ben Nevis, Rannoch Moor, Ben Wyvis, Torridon and Cape Wrath.

Planners will have to consult the map, but already 60% of the area covered is deemed unsuitable for wind farms.

Ministers propose extending the separation distance between wind farms and cities, towns and villages from 1.24 miles to 1.55 miles.

Planning Minister Derek Mackay said the consultation would influence development plans across the country for the next 30 years affecting every part of Scotland.

He said: "By providing a clear vision, the proposals will be used to guide future development that will help Scotland achieve its ambitious renewable energy targets and also increase protection for our country's most environmentally important areas."

Climber, writer and broadcaster Cameron McNeish said the Government had gone a long way to meet the calls of the likes the Mountaineering Council of Scotland for a national planning policy.

He added: "As far as I am aware no European Government has put an outright ban on wind turbines on particular areas of their country that are seen as nationally important in terms of landscape quality.

"The much-criticised Scottish Government could well be the first to do so."

The John Muir Trust welcomed recognition wild land must now be an important factor to be taken into account.

Chief executive Stuart Brooks said there were a number of large-scale developments in the planning pipeline located in the heartland of some of the core areas of the wild land map.

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden broadly welcomed the proposals. He said: "Poor quality development can be a huge threat to wildlife so we welcome the continued protection given to our most important wildlife sites.

However, Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, warned excluding large areas of the country suitable for wind farms could potentially slow progress to achieving the Scottish Government's green energy targets objectives. She said: "Scotland is known across the world for its beautiful landscapes and dynamic renewable energy industry and the Scottish Government has to balance both of these priorities.

"However, we should remember climate change remains the greatest threat to our natural environment and renewable energy is one of the key tools in reducing harmful emissions."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Planning policy has of course always protected our most special landscapes from harmful development.

"But we have clarified and strengthened protection for National Parks and National Scenic Areas by making it absolutely clear the Scottish Government does not wish to see wind farms in these most special landscapes."

Ministers have also earmarked sites for two carbon capture and storage schemes at Peterhead and Grangemouth, but Hunterston in Ayrshire, the site of a previous proposal, was dropped after 20,000 objections.

New large-scale national developments were identified including at airports in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and Prestwick where there are hopes of developing the aerospace sector.