THE Scottish Government's much-trumpeted Wild Land policy is reaching its first major test.
A decision by the Scottish Government to consent the proposed Allt Duine wind farm in the Monadhliath Mountains, located adjacent to the Cairngorms National Park, would signal a very premature death for what might have been a visionary approach to the protection of Wild Land.
Allt Duine would be a development of 31 125-metre-tall turbines and has been the subject of fierce debate for several years: a decision is well overdue.
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The proposed wind farm would be situated within Wild Land Area 20 on the Scottish Natural Heritage map of Wild Land Areas 2014, as adopted by ministers in Scottish Planning Policy. For it to go ahead would directly contradict the spirit of that policy and represent a dismal failure by the Scottish Government to act in accordance with democratic principles.
In a recent poll of local residents almost 75 per cent voted against Allt Duine going ahead. This is the same community which could benefit from any financial incentives provided by developer RWE Innogy.
As well as designated Wild Land, the Allt Duine site is an area of great natural beauty, a habitat for protected species including the golden eagle, and an important landscape for hill walkers, mountaineers and outdoors enthusiasts from Scotland and beyond.
The local community is against Allt Duine, as are Scottish Natural Heritage, the Cairngorms National Park Authority, Highland Council, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. These objectors are statutory consultees - the Scottish Government's own experts with which the developer is required to consult by law. Will the minister ignore their advice?
Given the strength of opposition, the minister must reject Allt Duine. Not to do so would be to treat with contempt the local community, its own expert advisors, all those who are committed to protecting Scotland's Wild Land, and the Scottish Government's own democratically settled policy on defending Wild Land. We're calling on him to act now.
Chris Townsend, Save Monadhliath Mountains Campaign; Helen McDade, John Muir Trust; David Gibson, Mountaineering Council of Scotland;