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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A WAKE FOR WILDERNESS: THE BONES OF THE PROTEST

I suppose I should start by clearing up a misconception: The protest I am trying to organise is not specifically about the Dunmaglass decision – however disgraceful I think that has been. I am certainly not trying to get the Dunmaglass project stopped as that would be totally unrealistic.

The idea is *not* to protest particularly about Dunmaglass but about the siting of these Wind Farms in obviously wild land in general. In Scotland the Greens are propping up an SNP Party in order to get their hands on the levers of power. The Green Party has managed to paint a picture of anyone who doesn’t want these turbines as being Anti-Green, which is patent nonsense. The purpose of the protest is to bring this to the fore and make people realise that the value of wild land is significantly more than just an empty space suitable for wind farms. The JMT writes eloquently to expound these views.

I quote: “ The JMT supports the development of small-scale, sensitively sited renewable energy schemes, in areas adjacent to existing settlements, which demonstrate that renewable energy may be sourced without significantly impacting on "wild land" (1) or wildlife. The JMT, while generally in support of the development of renewable energy systems, opposes new developments where they significantly threaten "wild land".

The great majority of proposals to develop renewable energy schemes in Scotland have, to an extent, avoided the most iconic areas of wild land. The Dunmaglass proposal is blatantly irresponsible in that regard. To place the significance of this scheme in context, it should be noted that of the many schemes proposed in the UK in the last five years, the John Muir Trust has formally objected to only four: Shieldaig and Slattadale hydro, Lewis windfarm, Eisgein windfarm and now Dunmaglass.”

It’s early days yet but I am trying to gather quite a few walkers together to walk a coffin right past Dunmaglass Lodge’s windows and take it to the spot of the highest turbine (at about 750m contour) where we could set it on a funeral pyre (the materials having also been carried up) and then possibly set the thing alight, (need to think about that – don’t want to torch the Monadhliath!) whilst holding a Wake for the Wilderness. (Cheese & Wine, naturally)

I will try to get the JMT and MCofS involved as well as Sigrid Rausing (the owner of Coignafearn and quite an amazing woman) as well as a few high profile media figures as I am well aware that we need high profile support for a protest to be picked up by the general media. At the moment I am putting it all together as an approach document for them all – none are likely to agree unless there is a good plan.

So – I need to get busy and finish the document and start to mail it out to everyone.

As to getting large numbers of TGO Challengers there – I realise that that is a non-starter as most will have already worked out their routes and be in the process of submitting them to be vetted. No: I am appealing to a much wider congregation of every hill walker who loves the wild places.

It’s been suggested to me that this might politicize the TGO Challenge. The Challenge has been supported by TGO magazine since its inception back in 1981. TGO is a magazine that campaigns for walker’s rights and the wild places. Both Cameron McNeish and Chris Townsend have written to me supporting my idea of a protest.

I should stress that this is not a TGO Challenge event. However, if people who participate in the Challenge want to take part then that is entirely up to them and their consciences to do so. If other estates believe that this sullies the name of the Challenge, then they are estates that we should be actively taking on to challenge their views about access and conservation. The Letterewe Accord was a benchmark of collaboration and enlightenment and this should be the basis of talking with landowners. A huge amount of effort went in to persuading errant estates that hill-walkers were actually good for the Highland economy and this is the message that should be pressed home at every available opportunity.

I believe that not to do anything condones the Highland Council’s and the Scottish Government’s dreadful decisions about siting more and more turbines on wild land and if we sit on our backsides being polite and not involving institutions that we have come to think of as comfortable old friends then we are condemning the rest of the Scottish uplands to more and more turbines.

For Dunmaglass, the building of Wind Turbines at 750m above sea level, on top quality wild land will only diminish the reasons for walkers to visit these places. In addition to the turbines, 20km of NEW tracks will be built to maintain these monsters (as well as upgrading a further 12 km of existing tracks). This is industrialisation of wild land on a massive scale. No amount of financial benefits from the energy companies will make up for the shortfall in the “Hillwalking-Pound” and the tourism organisations were against the Dunmaglass Project for exactly this reason.

This issue of totally screwing up the wild places IS important. It IS worth ruffling a few comfortable feathers. If we don’t then we will lose the rest of what we visit Scotland for – a sense of freedom; a place to be refreshed emotionally. What has been built up to now is only a fragment of what is proposed. There will be many times more of these factories in more and more of the wild places.

I am not setting out to be confrontational – but I am setting out to try and change the Green Movement’s mind – It is not acceptable, it is not “green” to urbanise our wild places. Once this message is received only then will planners and government take the wild places true value into account.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Alan, great idea. If you need someone to compose and deliver a eulogy for our wild land at the 'funeral' get in touch, Janet Donnelly, Humanist Celebrant X

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  2. Good thinking Alan.
    A suggestion: how about organising the wake for the Friday/weekend after the Challenge, should be lots of mourners available, maybe buses from Montrose?
    Keep up the good work!

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  3. A great idea Alan and a great passionate post. I will be passing that way so count me in.

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  4. See you there or probably before.

    It is a pity that these monstrosities have to exist especially considering their relevant efficiency, but looking at the History of Land reforms by Politicians and Rich Landowners in Scotland it is NOT a new thing. If you look at the revenue that the landowners will gain from this enterprise, you can see that their motive have bugger all to do with the environment and everything to do with £ MONEY £.

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  5. Alan - I don't know the reasons as to why the wind farm is to be sited in this area - but why these cannot be sited offshore I don't understand, other than cost - which should not be the overiding factor in wild areas. Although this is Scotland, I am a member of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and windfarms come up quite frequently. I am not against wind farms, but they need to be sited sensitively. I think alternative energy production is important, not so much for the climate change reasons, but energy security. Good for you on the taking this stand. Keep us updated.
    Mark

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  6. hi Alan,
    Not doing the Challenge this year, but M.A and I are up for it- we can ferry supplies in (not sure I can balance a coffin on my mountain bike- does Ikea sell cardboard self-assembly models?)

    Did you know that there are plans afoot for another huge windfarm on Balavil, Dunachton and Alvie estates between Kingussie and Aviemore?
    Val Machin, Kincraig

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  7. Hi Alan, just added an article on Walkhighlands. My advice is to keep the protest focussed on the damage to wild areas and don't attack wind farms generally - that way you will retain the most support. Don't do anything that might cause any damage. And listen to Andy Howell - he knows this stuff!

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  8. Wind Farms are plonked anywhere, we have one near Rye in Sussex. You can see the 26 370ft lumps from all over Rommey Marsh. Best not seen on a dull day

    http://www.countryguardian.net/Case%20Landscape.htm

    Good luck on the Challenge

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  9. Hi Alan, about time those of us who oppose the ludicrous decisions taken by the Scottish Government over wind farm sitings stood up to be counted. It's a travesty that wild land is being 'industrialised' to boost the agos of politicians and make money for landowners and developers. Strong case for creating more protected wild land and Scottish national parks.

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  10. I'm with you - we need something like this to get like minded people to rally round and make our voice heard (though I would probably have just gone for a simple walk). I think that too often people are afraid of standing up for wild land because they fear they will be seen as not caring about the environment - a perverse state of affairs we've got to change.

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  11. They built Crystal Rig I (25 turbines) in the Lammermuir Hills in 2004. The Lammermuirs are, supposedly, designated as an Area of Great Landscape Value.

    We did not object because it was "only 25 turbines" and the site was not prominent.

    Another 147 turbines have now been built/consented in the heart of the Lammermuirs with dozens more, like a ring of steel, on the fringes.

    Wind farm speculators now openly claim that the area is, "a wind farm landscape" and so will not be damaged by yet more turbines.

    Fred Olsen Renewables, the owners and operators of the Crystal Rig turbine complex have recently dropped their Forth offshore scheme in favour of cheaper and easier onshore development. They are currently proposing Crystal Rig III, 'just' 18 more turbines to add to the 86 they have already built.

    Unless we act soon the speculators will have destroyed many of our last wild places.

    See: Windbyte.co.uk

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  12. Have you sourced your coffin yet. I can make you a lightweight one if needs be.

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  13. Hi Shap

    A friend has sourced a standard coffin but as you have realised this is quite heavy so the idea of a lightweight coffin certainly appeals as it will have to be carried for quite a few miles up hills!

    Could you get in touch with me by email?
    alan dot sloman at ntlworld dot com
    Thank you.

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