The Scottish government came under pressure last night not to cave in to the renewables industry, as a poll indicated overwhelming support for wind farms to be banned from wild land.
Environmentalists privately fear that Alex Salmond, the First Minister, could backtrack on pledges to protect scenic areas from turbines in the face of strong lobbying by the green energy sector.
A new poll by YouGov, released today by the John Muir Trust, indicates 75 per cent support for the proposal that "the 20 per cent of Scotland's landscape identified as ‘core wild land' - rugged, remote and free from modern visible human structures - should be given be special protection from inappropriate development including wind farms". Forty-three areas, constituting about 20 per cent of the country, have been designated "wild land" in a draft Scottish planning policy, published in April. These, in common with existing national parks, are likely to receive protection from any form of development if the policy becomes law.
With the Scottish government's planning policy out to public consultation, and an official map of Scotland's core wild land on the table, Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, said that the poll provided the government with the backing it needed.
He said: "With 75 per cent of Scots in favour of protecting wild land and only 6 per cent opposed, the government now has an overwhelming mandate to introduce robust wild-land protection. We have argued all along that the government's targets for reducing greenhouse gases can be achieved without sacrificing our unique wild landscapes.
"This poll sends a resounding message to the Scottish government that the people of Scotland want them to stand firm and deliver their promise to safeguard our wild and rugged land from industrial-style development."
John Hutchison, chairman of the John Muir Trust, added: "Regardless of gender, class, age or party-political allegiance, Scotland is united in wanting to keep our wild landscapes free from large-scale wind farms, giant pylons, super quarries and other inappropriate commercial developments.
"Scotland's rugged mountain landscapes are part of our national heritage and identity - and the message from our people is that our wild land is not for sale.
"We are sure that MSPs from across the spectrum will take note of the fact that the breadth and the depth of support for wild land far outstrips support for any political party."
In the poll, on a five-point scale ranging from "strongly support" to "strongly oppose", 40 per cent said they would strongly support protection for Scotland's wild land, while a further 35 per cent "tend to support" the proposal. Only 2 per cent strongly opposed protection.
The Scottish government said: "The Scottish government wants to see the right developments in the right places and that is why the draft Scottish planning policy - which is currently out for consultation - contains proposals to strengthen the protection for Scotland's most scenic and wild areas, as well as proposing that wind farms are not acceptable in our national parks and national scenic areas. We welcome all responses to our consultation."