THEY are small, rustic buildings, often with no plumbing or heating, yet for many they offer the perfect retreat from the stresses of modern life.

Huts, cabins and bothies have a long history in Scotland but have never been included in the Government's planning guidelines until now.

The new Scottish Planning Policy recommends that rural development plans make provision for these low-impact retreats, a move that has been welcomed by 'hutters'.

Campaigners claim the new policy will allow Scots to embrace hutting culture in the way Scandinavian countries have, offering people from all walks of life the chance to "relax surrounded by nature".

Ninian Stuart, director of Reforesting Scotland and the A Thousand Huts campaign, which aims to encourage growth in Scotland's hutting community, said: "Huts are part of Scotland's history, and the need for them - for wellbeing and a sense of connection with nature - is as strong as ever.

"We believe the provision in the new Scottish Planning Policy hails a new era for the revival of hutting in Scotland.

"Though there are barriers to be removed, networks to build and much to do in terms of bringing private and public landowners on board, this is a very significant step forward for us."

The campaign group liaised with the Government ahead of the publication of the planning framework earlier this week. It has gathered support from across the country, including from broadcaster Lesley Riddoch, who is also a keen hutter.

Ms Riddoch said: "The way many North Europeans spend weekends is in a wee modest, wooden hut in the country. It's time for Scots to join them.

"Having a hut lowers blood pressure, gives a reason to leave the office [early], lets family members bond and gives work a whole new meaning. Do we live to work or work to live? Having a hut makes that answer easy."

The campaigners are particularly pleased that a definition of huts has been included in the guidelines, as there was no provision to apply for permission to build such a simple structure.

A spokeswoman for A Thousand Huts added: "There wasn't an actual definition in planning rules. You would have had to follow planning guidelines for a dwelling which would have tighter restrictions and require it to be much more sophisticated. But now you can have a simple, low-impact structure that you can sleep in from time to time."

Reforesting Scotland is now working on a pilot project with Forestry Commission Scotland that will potentially see the creation of 10 huts in Fife. The largest existing hutting community in Scotland is Carbeth Hutters, north of Glasgow, where more than 150 huts are occupied by a thriving community.

The new policy also includes an instruction that there should be a presumption in favour of new developments, though firms will have to show they are environmentally friendly and sustainable. It means sustainable developments are likely to be approved unless there is a compelling case to reject.