MOVES by the Scottish Government to pursue large scale afforestation are being challenged by two unlikely allies – the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Mountaineering Scotland.

Both camps have joined together to press the government to develop a land use policy which protects Scotland’s world-renowned open landscapes, and ensures access for recreation.

A joint letter has gone from the organisations to environment minister Roseanna Cunningham MSP, voicing concern that a lack of "joined up thinking" could see the loss of internationally renowned mountainous landscapes.

In the letter, the two organisations – which accepted that they do not agree on all matters, but whose memberships share a passionate interest in the uplands – said: “While Scotland’s open landscapes and upland moors are classed as rare in global terms, there is currently no policy position safeguarding them. Some areas are designated as of special ecological or scenic interest but most are unprotected and disregarded.”

Highlighting the example of forestry, the SGA and Mountaineering Scotland pointed out that successive Scottish administrations have published detailed forestry strategies and targets, with 10,000 hectares of new planting earmarked to take place each year until 2022.

While neither opposed well sited, planned tree planting, both questioned whether enough weight was being given to the significant changes this will have on the landscape, whether the dramatic open views and vistas, regarded as iconic of Scotland, might disappear.

Both bodies welcome Scottish Natural Heritage’s preparatory work on scoping a strategic vision for the uplands, arguing that, without such a vision, key areas may be given up to agriculture, energy and afforestation, with insufficient attention paid to what is being lost.

They are now seeking a meeting with the Ms Cunningham to discuss what they see as a “failure to join up what is required from the land to meet forestry targets and what we might want to keep in terms of internationally rare and valuable landscapes and ecosystems.”

Mountaineering Scotland president Mike Watson said: “The SGA and ourselves have different views on a number of issues, but we have a common interest in the development of a land use policy that will protect the landscapes that we both value.

“We hope that a joint approach to the Scottish Government from our two organisations will demonstrate the wide ranging concern over this issue, and the need for development of a coherent policy that takes into account the views of all interested parties.

SGA chairman Alex Hogg said: “Recent dialogue between both organisations established a great deal of common ground when it came to the pride our respective memberships have in the land, but also their worries about upland landscapes and how different they may look, in the not too distant future, if we don’t have a landscape policy which gives them the emphasis required. We have lost so much open moorland since the 1940s and a narrow view, now, may fail what we have left.”