A BID to have Loch Awe designated as a National Scenic Area (NSA) has been
discussed in the Scottish Parliament.
The debate followed the John Muir Trust backing a petition lodged by
Christine Metcalfe, on behalf of Avich and Kilchrenan Community Council,
calling for a review of the process for designation of NSAs and
consideration of the potential for more NSAs to protect the natural
landscape and support the tourism sector.
As a result of the petition, Scotland’s NSAs and whether there should be
more of them was debated last week by MSPs on the Public Petitions
Committee. Earlier this year the John Muir Trust had encouraged members to
add their name to the petition lodged by Ms Metcalfe.
There are 40 National Scenic Areas (NSAs) in Scotland, covering 13 per cent
of country’s land mass. According to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) they
represent Scotland’s finest landscapes – mountain areas such as the Skye
Cuillins, Ben Nevis and Glencoe, and dramatic island landscapes like the
Hebrides. The purpose of the NSA designation is to identify Scotland’s
finest scenery and to ensure it is protected.
In the evidence session before the committee, Ms Metcalfe was accompanied
by Alan Mitchell, also of Avich and Kilchrenan Community Council, and by
Douglas Wynn, a trustee of the John Muir Trust.
Ms Metcalfe highlighted to the committee how the founding document of NSAs
suggested that landscape conservation should be open to revision but that,
to date, this has not happened, and the 40 NSAs remain as originally mapped
She noted how a previous petition in 2015 had called for NSA status for
Loch Ness and the Great Glen but the Scottish Government had said it had no
plans to designate any further NSAs, a position restated late in 2016 in
answer to a parliamentary question.
The scale and rapid spread of major developments – largely wind farms – in
Scotland’s most sensitive scenic areas required, Ms Metcalfe argued, a
‘much more dynamic policy response from the Scottish Government than
reliance on a four-decade-old mapping of protected landscapes’.
Ms Metcalfe felt that there are a number of potential candidates for new
designations, but cited Loch Awe specifically as an example of an
increasingly rare, tranquil
environment in an unspoiled landscape. Designation, she argued, would be
greatly welcomed by the tourism industry, visitors and residents.
Mr Wynn highlighted the dramatic rise in the areas of Scotland from which
large industrial structures are visible. The lack of any revision of the
NSAs in the light of these changing circumstances and pressure on landscape
gives, he argued, strong justification for action.
MSPs agreed to write to the Scottish Government to ask why it is not
reviewing the NSAs process. Views will also be sought from SNH and COSLA.