With the general election only weeks away political debate is dominating the airwaves. But some issues are commanding more attention than others. Where, for instance, do the various parties stand on the great outdoors? Who offers concrete measures to strengthen outdoor access and wild land conservation, and boost the number of people participating in outdoor recreation? Walkers' and climbers' representatives are challenging politicians to make their positions clear.
The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) have launched a campaign to make 2015 the 'outdoor election',
'The huge benefits of getting outdoors to the health, happiness and culture of society are clearer than they have ever been' says BMC Access and Conservation officer Cath Flitcroft.
'But at the same time, national parks are feeling the impact of cuts, schemes to engage the public with the countryside are few and far between, and new developments threaten green spaces.'
'We believe there is a mismatch here.'
The BMC are calling on the political parties to recognise the huge value of outdoor recreation in their manifestos. They would like measures to improve public access and countryside conservation to form part of a long-term strategy for outdoor recreation, and are calling on BMC members to help turn up the heat by asking parliamentary candidates five simple questions:
- What is your party doing to tackle the epidemic of inactivity, which (say the BMC) costs an estimated £10 billion a year?
- What is your party doing to support the outdoor economy?
- Do you think the right balance has been struck in this area between house building (for instance) and protecting our countryside and green spaces?
- If you / your party were elected, would you look to spend more money on improving and maintaining rights of way and access infrastructure?
- Do you know of any barriers in this constituency which may deter people from getting outdoors?
Meanwhile north of the border, the pressure to develop wind farms in the mountains has reached unprecedented levels. In response the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) are encouraging members to interrogate prospective MPs on the thorny issue of wild land conservation.
A month ago the MCofS sent to Scottish MPs and MSPs its vision for the future of mountains and wild land, ‘Respecting Scotland’s Mountains’.
The organisation also launched a petition to the Scottish Government urging it:
- To ensure that Scotland's precious remaining areas of wild land, as identified by Scottish Natural Heritage’s wild land map, are fully protected from large scale development.
- To change current Scottish planning policy to clarify that planning applications for industrial developments in mapped areas of wild land will be unacceptable.
David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, said:
"‘Respecting Scotland’s Mountains’ emphasises the importance of stronger protection for our mountains and wild land in environmental and economic terms, and for the benefit of public health."
“There is a real need for people to know how the parties view the protection of these rapidly diminishing, nationally important assets and how they propose to provide stronger future protection. We are asking for a statement of intent – one which we can share with our members and the public prior to the general election, so that they can make an informed decision when they vote.”