APRS Resources

APRS Annual Review 2021





  • Winning our 11-year-long campaign for more National Parks in Scotland
  • Achieving stronger protection for Green Belts in the draft National Planning Framework 4
  • Launching our published and online Countryside Protectors education resources
  • Securing a substantial grant from the People’s Postcode Trust

For APRS, as for all other charities, 2021 continued to be dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

All staff continued to work predominantly from home throughout the year, and were supported in doing so through appropriate IT provision and advice and regular communication with the Director and Trustees.  All documents and images were successfully accessed via cloud storage and all internal and external meetings held by video conference.  We experienced no significant delay in securing donations from charitable trusts or reductions in the amount of those donations, and our membership income held up.  The pandemic therefore had no significant overall effect on our financial situation.  We were however obliged to continue for a further year paying rent, service charges, broadband and phone costs for an office which we did not occupy.

Scottish National Parks Strategy Project

Our joint project with the Scottish Campaign for National Parks (SCNP) calls for a national strategy for a network of National Parks across Scotland, including at least one coastal and marine National Park.

In August 2021 we finally won our 11-year campaign for more National Parks, when we welcomed the Scottish Government’s new commitment to “designate at least one new National Park by the end of this session”, meaning by 2026.  The announcement formed part of the Shared Policy Programme published by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party under their co-operation agreement.  This is the second major campaign win for APRS in four years, following the Scottish Government’s 2017 commitment to a deposit return system for drinks containers.  We’d like to thank everyone who helped us to win this campaign, particularly Ramblers Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, the Campaign for a Scottish Borders National Park and the Galloway National Park Association.

APRS and our partners the Scottish Campaign for National Parks will remain closely involved in the forthcoming process of assessment and consultation over the locations, boundaries, powers and functions of the new National Parks.  We will continue to stress the need for an overall national strategy and to emphasise that the commitment is to “at least” one new National Park.  Although we still consider that up to seven areas could meet the criteria for more National Parks, the proven levels of local community demand in the Borders and Galloway mean that these two places are clearly the front runners.  

APRS Green Belts Alliance

The APRS Green Belts Alliance promotes the value of Scotland’s 11 Green Belts and co-ordinates the activities of community-based Green Belt action groups across Scotland.

The membership of the Alliance continued to grow under the leadership of Alliance Manager Nikki Sinclair, partly in response to approaches from new local groups in Bridge of Allan, Carmunnock and Dunfermline.  Towards the end of the year we were pleased to see stronger protection proposed for Green Belts in the draft National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) and encouraged Alliance members to support this.  We wrote to new Planning Minister Tom Arthur MSP, successfully urging him to call in a Green Belt housing application in Kilmacolm, Inverclyde.  We issued several comprehensive updates to Alliance members, including briefing notes on changes to Scottish Planning Policy and on how to respond to the draft NPF4.  

We submitted objections to the large ‘EuroPark’ Green Belt development in North Lanarkshire and to a housing development in the Edinburgh Green Belt near Gilmerton.  We submitted representations on draft Local Development Plans (LDPs) for Edinburgh and Inverclyde and updated our table of LDP status for Green Belt areas.  We advised a member of the public in Renfrewshire regarding opposing a proposed cattery on Green Belt land; the application was refused by Renfrewshire Council but later allowed on appeal.  We responded to an APRS member’s enquiry about Green Belt land use change from tenant farming to forestry, and advised a member of public in East Dunbartonshire regarding objecting to a planning application for two large holiday chalets in the Green Belt.

Have You Got The Bottle? Campaign

In 2017 our Have You Got The Bottle? campaign persuaded the Scottish Government to introduce a deposit return system (DRS) for drinks containers, to reduce litter, boost recycling rates and tackle climate change.

We spent most of the year urging the Scottish Government to start DRS as planned in July 2022, in the face of calls for delay from some parts of the drinks and retail industries.  This included writing to new Cabinet Secretary Michael Matheson, delivering a ‘one year to go’ stunt outside the Scottish Parliament, drafting a Parliamentary Motion and briefing all MSPs on why they should ensure adherence to the original timetable.  We also held an initial meeting with the Chief Executive of Circularity Scotland, the new DRS system administrator, and produced an up-to-date Scotland’s Got The Bottle briefing.  However in December 2021 the Scottish Government finally announced yet another delay until August 2023; we issued a press release in response expressing our dismay at this highly unwelcome news.

We launched our new DRS learning resources on our website, Facebook and Twitter, including our Countryside Protectors brochure, online Return Run game and education video on YouTube.  We promoted these resources to schools and partner organisations and set up DRS education partnerships with John Muir Trust, Rotary and RSPB Scotland.  We continued pressing the Scottish Government to carry out a national litter survey before and after introduction of DRS, and developed an online survey regarding access to DRS for people with disabilities along with Prof Sang of Heriot-Watt University.  Campaign Manager Jenni Hume left APRS after four years leading the successful campaign to take up a new post at Reloop, but we extended Education Manager Joanna McFarlane’s contract to December 2021.

Town and Country Planning

We aim to encourage genuinely sustainable development in rural Scotland, including advising our members and other people on how to respond to proposals which affect their local landscapes.

We developed proposals for a webinar on climate, communities and planning, led by APRS Trustees and staff and including a guest speaker from the recently-formed Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland.  The webinar took place in January 2022, when we also launched our revised and redesigned Advice Note on The Planning System.  We advised an APRS member in Midlothian regarding monitoring the construction of an approved housing development, particularly related to tree protection.  We worked closely with Planning Democracy, including advising them on how to respond to proposed speculative housing development in Dunbar and providing a quote to investigative journalism website The Ferret.

We gave detailed advice to many members of the public about a wide range of proposed developments, including housing, flood protection works, quarries, solar farms, wind farms, a cemetery, distillery expansion, equestrian development, mining, roadbuilding and spaceports.  These requests for advice came from right across rural Scotland, from the Borders and Galloway in the south to Shetland and Sutherland in the north and from Ayrshire and Dunbartonshire in the west to Angus and Fife in the east.

Policy Development and Advocacy

We seek to protect and enhance Scotland’s rural landscapes for future generations and to promote effective planning and landscape protection systems in Scotland, through active involvement in national policy development and advocacy.

Ahead of the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections we lobbied all political parties to adopt our proposals on Green Belts, National Parks and the circular economy in their election manifestos.  We then prepared a summary of party manifesto extracts on these subjects and published it on our website and social media:  five parties published proposals on circular economy, four on National Parks and three on Green Belts.  Immediately before the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow we issued a Parliamentary Briefing on Climate and Landscape and signed Scotland’s Climate Assembly Civic Charter.  We submitted responses to the Scottish Government’s Position Statement on National Planning Framework 4 and to its consultations on Local Place Plans Regulations and on Single Use Plastics.  We responded to Edinburgh Council’s consultation regarding proposed changes to the Pentland Hills Regional Park concerning parking, toilet provision and campsites.

We attended Scottish Environment LINK’s workshop on Scotland’s response to the international initiative to protect 30% of land for nature by 2030 and signed up to its subsequent briefing on that topic.  We also signed up to LINK responses to the Continuity Bill and Land Use Strategy and to its briefings for new MSPs on planning and circular economy.  Neville Makan from NatureScot briefed LINK’s Landscape Group on its Landscape Monitoring Programme.  Rebecca Hughes and John Thomson continued to represent APRS on Scotland’s Landscape Alliance and contributed to its Policy Debate in October.

Communications and Partnership

We aim to raise awareness of the importance of Scotland’s landscapes to its people and economy, through working in partnership with individuals, other charities, local authorities, government and public bodies and through publicising our work to our members and beyond.

We carried out significant enhancements to our website, including revising the homepage, Support Us page and Planning Resources section and adding new Learning pages with resources, online game and educators’ booklet.  We ran social media campaigns on educational resources, online membership and donations, Green Belts Alliance members’ campaigns, National Parks and NPF4, gradually increasing our followers to more than 750 on Facebook and 1000 on Twitter.  Our Facebook competition to win a Sir David Attenborough book by writing about a favourite Scottish landscape generated 1,800 views and 17 entries.  Our press release calling for no further delay to the DRS start date was covered by the BBC, The Herald and the Press and Journal.  We published two issues of our Rural Scotland members’ newsletter and two website Bulletins for our members.  

Fundraising and Membership

We rely on generous support from charitable trusts, private companies and our members to carry out our work.

We were delighted to receive our first grant of £20,000 from the People’s Postcode Trust towards unrestricted funds.  Substantial anonymous contributions were received towards both our Deposit Return System and National Parks projects.  We received the second instalment of a three-year core funding agreement from the Craignish Trust (£2,000 per annum) and several other donations towards unrestricted funds, including £3,500 from Mrs M H McMillan’s Charitable Trust, £2,500 from the Whitley Animal Protection Trust and £2,000 from the Sylvia Aitken Charitable Trust.  Our members and others have now contributed nearly £1,200 over several years through the easyfundraising initiative, which generates charitable donations from online shopping at no extra cost.  We developed and launched a new online membership system, involving lengthy and extensive planning and liaison with web designers, direct debit service providers and banks.

Governance and Management

APRS is governed by an Executive Committee of seven Trustees, and benefits from several dedicated volunteers and a 20-strong advisory Council.

The AGM was held by video conference for a second year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  The AGM approved amended Articles of Association to allow online meetings and to transfer the responsibility for setting membership subscriptions from General Meetings to the Executive Committee.  Walter Simpson was re-elected for a second three-year term as Vice-President, and Duncan Campbell and Catherine Gemmell were each re-elected for a second three-year term as Members of the Executive Committee.

We finalised our three-year Business Strategy and the Executive Committee approved our new Safeguarding Policy.  We successfully held all four Executive Committee meetings via video conference, but reluctantly felt unable to hold any Council Meetings for a second year.  We joined the Cyclescheme employee benefit bike scheme.  Sadly two recent former Trustees, Mike Gascoigne and Karol Swanson, passed away during the year.  

Members and Volunteers

APRS relies heavily on the generosity, financial or otherwise, of its members and other supporters and volunteers.  The charity is very grateful for all the help it receives.

Thank you to all our members and volunteers who make possible all of the work described in this Review.  Please pass this Review on to anyone you think might be interested in becoming a member, to help us make 2022 an even better year for Scotland’s rural landscapes.

Plans for 2022

In 2020 we agreed a comprehensive Business Strategy 2021-23 covering all aspects of the work of APRS.  This sets out the principal outcomes we aspire to achieve by 2023, including:

  • Stronger protection for Green Belts in National Planning Framework 4
  • A National Parks Strategy promoted by the Scottish Government
  • Scotland’s DRS launched on time in 2023 and meeting its initial targets
  • Scotland’s Landscape Alliance recognised as a leading player in national policy debates
  • Rural communities better equipped to engage in local planning and landscape debates
  • Greater public awareness of APRS and its activities
  • More secure core funding

John Mayhew | Director | March 2022

APRS is the charity which promotes the care of all of Scotland’s rural landscapes.

We aim to:

  • protect and enhance Scotland’s rural landscapes for future generations 
  • promote effective planning and landscape protection systems in Scotland 
  • encourage genuinely sustainable development in rural Scotland  
  • raise awareness of the importance of Scotland’s landscapes to its people and economy 
  • promote the activity of land managers who care for Scotland’s landscapes

The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland

Dolphin House, 4 Hunter Square, Edinburgh EH1 1QW

0131 225 7012



President:  Patricia Macdonald BSc PhD FRSE FSA(Scot) FRSA HonFRSGS HonFICS

Chairman:  John Thomson MA MSc FRSA

Director:  John Mayhew MA MSc DipTP MRTPI

Scottish Charity No SC016139

Scottish Charitable Company limited by guarantee, Registered No 154563

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