Thousands of trees will be planted on one of Scotland’s most famous battlefields despite calls for it to be preserved as a national war grave.
Worldwide opposition to the plan, which will forever change the historic landscape of Sheriffmuir, has not been enough to halt its progress.
The Kippendavie Estate is expected to proceed within weeks with the planting of 63 hectares of woodland on the iconic moorland.
The news has horrified objectors including the Scottish Battlefield Trust, which has fought for Sheriffmuir and other sites of national and international importance to be offered legal protections.
It will contact the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency to try to halt the tree planting.
An estimated 1,300 men fell during the 1715 battle and the remains of many are believed to lie beneath the Perthshire earth.
Historians from as far away as America and Russia were among the objectors and have described the tree planting as a “desecration”.
“What is proposed will fundamentally and perhaps irreparably change the historic landscape of Sheriffmuir and that is very disappointing,” said Arran Johnston, director of the Scottish Battlefield Trust.
“Our battlefields are under attack. In the last four or five years we have seen similar problems at Culloden and Prestonpans.
“Scotland is renowned for its history and heritage and its economy relies upon it so it is extraordinary that we are still failing to see our battlefields as key assets.
“We are very worried about this proposal and will be submitting our renewed objection to the Scottish Government.”
Forestry Commission Scotland said it had backed the scheme as original proposals for 78 hectares of woodland had been “extensively amended” after feedback gathered over four years.
Cameron Maxwell, Forestry Commission Scotland’s Conservator for the area, said: “We have listened to all the concerns raised by members of the public and stakeholders and worked hard to reach an acceptable proposal that does not have a significant effect on the environment.
“The revised scheme will both protect the key landscape characteristics of the battlefield and help to enhance and augment the site for visitors, with improved interpretation and access.
“As the project develops, detailed archaeological survey work and reporting will be a good opportunity to increase public engagement with the site and hopefully will improve knowledge about the battle.”
Forestry Commission Scotland will also have involvement in payment of grants to the landowner as well as ensuring that all of the conditions set out in the consent decision are met.
Virginia Wills lives close to the battlefield at Glentye and was among the original objectors. She said: “It is hugely disappointing that Sheriffmuir has not been afforded greater protection.
“It is a fabulously beautiful landscape on which 800 Scots men are buried. The desecration will be unimaginable.”
Opponents of the scheme now have a final 27 days in which to send opinions to the Scottish Government.