Last year the Scottish Government made a great stride in protecting 42 of its greatest assets. As part of its planning policy and the new National Planning Framework it took on board Scottish Natural Heritage’s Wild Land Map. I have a particular soft spot for one of the areas, Reay-Cassley (Area 34), especially around the village of Inchnadamph.
As a keen amateur botanist, with an interest in geology, the area is a magnet. One of the very best days I have ever spent in the British hills started in the village as I headed for the famous bone caves of Allt nan Uamh.
Climbing up to the Braebag ridge I looked back to take in the stunning view of Suilven. Along the ridge, bathed in sunshine, I stumbled across a patch of cloudberry in flower, a rare treat.
The way “home” was down the Trallgill River with its caves, dry valley and springs, very unusual geology for the Highlands. And towards the end of a brilliant day, a patch of Mountain Avens, its arctic – alpine flowers tracking the sun.
But I have just found out that Area 34 has at least two large wind farms planned for it – Glencassley and Sallachy.
These beg the question: of what use is the Wild Land Map if it cannot protect this unique landscape from creeping industrialisation? The Scottish Government, and in particular Fergus Ewing, minister for business, energy and tourism, now have an important decision to make.
In seeking to balance the nation’s need for energy and protecting its best landscapes, he must keep Reay-Cassley (and the other 41 Wild Lands) wind farm-free and look elsewhere for far less damaging energy sources.
As an advanced technological society I am very aware that we do have large energy demands but we must also realise that once wild land is lost, it is lost forever.