MORE than half of visitors would be put off by the presence of industrial development of scenic land, according to research by a conservation charity.

A survey carried out by YouGov on behalf of the John Muir Trust revealed that 55 per cent of Scottish adults are “less likely” to visit the Scottish countryside if there is large-scale infrastructure in the area. The figure is up four per cent from a similar survey carried out in 2013.

Twenty-six per cent of those surveyed said the existence of commercial wind farms, electricity transmission and super-quarries would make “no difference” to their travel plans. Three per cent said they would be “more likely” to visit.

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The figures, released as part of the John Muir Trust’s Keep It Wild campaign, also showed that 10 per cent of respondents were undecided, while six per cent expressed no interest in visiting scenic areas at all. The survey took place between May 18-22 and asked 1028 Scottish adults — around 100 fewer than in 2013.

Keep It Wild highlights the potential benefits for Scotland’s tourism industry of protecting the country’s unique Wild Land Areas from industrial-scale development and calls. It also calls on the Scottish Government to use the forthcoming Planning Bill to give these areas protection from such developments, similar to the protection already in place for wind farms in National Parks and National Scenic Areas (NSAs).

Andrew Bachell, Chief Executive of the John Muir Trust said: “As schools across England break up to the summer holidays this week and many families flock to Scotland for breaks, we must stop and ask what they value about their stay. For many, it’s the ability to enjoy being outdoors in Scotland’s unique, unspoilt natural landscapes .

“Visitor expenditure in Scotland’s National Parks alone is worth £187 million a year, with further revenues brought in by tourism businesses in scenic areas from Shetland to the Borders. So when a clear majority of people say they’d be put off visiting scenic sites like Wild Land Areas by the existence of large-scale wind farms, giant pylons, super quarries and other inappropriate commercial developments, policymakers have to pay attention, before it’s too late.

“The forthcoming Planning Bill offers a unique opportunity to provide the protection that Wild Land Areas — and the tourism they support — are currently missing. That’s why the Keep it Wild campaign has been launched, to persuade the Scottish Government that protection for Wild Land Areas must be enshrined in legislation before they are lost for good.”

Last month the former head of Holyrood’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee hit out at the trust over it’s “fetish” over protecting wild land.

Rob Gibson accused the John Muir Trust of skewing the country’s relationship with the outdoors and ignoring history and development needs.

He told The National at the time: “Our heritage and national identity is being hijacked.”

“The worst thing you can have for land is monoculture. What we need to have is people living there, cattle grazing there. There are dozens of examples of human impact on what is seen as wild land, from place names and artefacts that archaeologists have found. We are talking about a widespread impact.”

The dispute dates back to 2014 when Scottish Natural Heritage first proposed 42 core wild land areas of “high wildness” it said were of national importance, but had no legal protection for. The John Muir Trust is aiming to change this with the upcoming Planning Bill, which it says is an opportunity to gain statutory protection for such areas.

The lastest YouGov survey results also showed that 80 per cent backed the proposition that Scotland’s Wild Land Areas should receive continued protection from large-scale infrastructure development.

The proposal has also gained support from other parties concerned with conservation.

Tom Campbell, managing director of North Coast 500, said: “The North Coast 500 has become one of the world’s top touring routes in the last two years based on a wild land and seascape that has existed forever and we are now exposing the world to this amazing place that is the North Highlands. “We need to be aware of the balance between necessary development to underpin the economy and the fragility of the tourism economy which is based on choices people make to visit beautiful places and in our case, some of the most beautiful and wild in the world,” he added.