Friday, 13 January 2012

Valuing nature based tourism in Scotland

Wind Turbine Power Plant

With more and more Wind Power Plants getting the “go-ahead” from the Scottish Government, perhaps Alex Salmond should pause awhile and reflect on this important document:


Tourism is one of Scotland’s largest business sectors, providing employment for 200,000 people and generating visitor spending of more than £4 billion a year.

The natural environment is a key tourism asset with nature-based tourism making a significant contribution to the sector. Based on information in existing studies the main findings from a study by Scottish Natural Heritage are:

  • The value to Scotland’s economy (the direct economic impact) of nature based tourism is £1.4 billion per year
  • 39,000 jobs (full-time equivalent) are reliant on Scotland’s nature based tourism
  • Tourist spending on nature based activities is worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending in Scotland.


Nature based tourism is defined as an overnight stay that is related wholly or partly to Scotland’s natural heritage – its wildlife, habitats, landscapes and natural beauty.

The main activities that make up the nature based tourism market are wildlife watching, enjoying the landscape, walking, adventure activities and field sports.


Wildlife tourism in Scotland is a valuable niche sector within the tourism industry. It includes activities such as bird watching, whale watching and guided walks. The wildlife section in this study also includes activities such as practical conservation holidays and other specialist interests such as geology and botany field trips.

This study uses a wider definition of the wildlife sector than a Scottish Government study on the Economic Impacts of Wildlife Tourism in Scotland (2010). It includes all those who enjoy wildlife as only part of their holiday. This gives a more comprehensive estimate of the wildlife sector as a whole.

The value to the economy of wildlife tourism is £127 million per year.


Field sports cover a range of activities including shooting, hunting and fishing. This section covers grouse (and other game) shooting, deer stalking, and all types of angling.

The value to the economy of field sports tourism is £136 million per year.


Walking is clearly the most popular nature based activity for UK residents holidaying in Scotland and in 2009 VisitScotland identified 47% of total UK visitor trips (5.7 million trips) involved some form of walking activity.

Walking for this study includes walks of more than one mile, rambling, hiking and mountain sports including hill walking, mountaineering and climbing.

The value to the economy of walking tourism is £533 million per year.


Adventure tourism is an expanding market with over 350,000 holiday trips to Scotland made by visitors undertaking adventure activities, including mountain biking, every year. It combines elements of physical activity, interaction with nature and cultural exploration and discovery. The active element includes canoeing and kayaking, surfing, sub aqua, sailing, mountain biking, cycling, extreme snow sports, horse riding and adventure activities such as rafting or paragliding. All rely on a diverse, high quality natural environment.

The value to the economy of adventure activity tourism is £178 million per year.


Landscapes and scenery play a major part in attracting visitors to Scotland. A high proportion of both UK and international visitors tour Scotland and go sightseeing to view the scenery. More visitors enjoy the landscape than take part in any individual activity using the natural environment.

The value to the economy of tourists touring and enjoying Scotland’s landscapes and scenery is £420 million per year.


Nature based tourism plays a vital part in Scotland’s rural economy, pulling in millions of pounds and creating many hundreds of job opportunities. As one of Europe’s leading year-round nature destinations with a world famous reputation for natural heritage, Scotland has a great deal to offer.

With spending on nature based activities worth nearly 40% of all tourism spending, nature based tourism can generate significant benefits for the economy. We need to ensure that developments and activities are sustainable so that more people can enjoy Scotland’s nature.

Attributing value to nature based tourism is complex. In many instances, data is not available and where it does exist, distinct studies often cannot be compared because of significant differences in approaches. The approach taken in this study was to identify and examine individually the main natural heritage features and activities that contribute to Scotland’s tourism product. The research is based on existing studies and uses raw material from some of the studies to calculate economic impact assessments for each of the individual activities. The study then puts together the individual assessments, in a way that avoids double counting, to reach an overall figure.
The overall figure does not include all activity from every sector. It attributes a percentage of expenditure based on the importance of nature for each of the sectors or activities. Where data is not available, the research sometimes has to rely on assumptions and estimates so figures should be regarded as indicative. Ascribing a specific motivation for any individual trip is difficult and therefore there is less confidence in the accuracy of individual activity figures.
The research does not include values for any business trips or visits to Edinburgh and Glasgow and so may underestimate the importance of some nature-based activities.

This document summarises research carried out for Scottish Natural Heritage. The full research report Assessing the economic impacts of nature based tourism in Scotland can be found at


That last link is a bit of a surprise, eh? Yes: This document was written for Scottish Natural Heritage, which is funded through the Rural Affairs and Environment arm of the Scottish Government. You can find this document in all its glory by clicking HERE and then HERE.

I think SNH and Alex Salmond ought to have a bit of a chat about this, don’t you?


  1. Daft as it might sound, I'm not sure that politicians make these connections. Perhaps they simply choose not to.

    It seems patently obvious to us that if you seriously damage the landscape, visitor numbers will fall and local economies will suffer. That's a layperson's perspective: politicians just seem to be wired differently; it's why so many of their proposals seem to bear no relationship to life as most of us live it.

    I don't know what outcomes they envisage with some of their decisions. They seem to inhabit a world totally opaque to me. I suspect I'm not alone.

  2. Byeways - I agree. I don't think they actually believe that damaging landscape will reduce the number of visitors.

    Will the mountain bike world championships stop being held in Fort William or will fewer foreign climbers visit the N Face of Ben Nevis in winter once the Druim Fada wind farm is built? I doubt it.

    How many have decided not to do the TGO Challenge because of wind farms in Scotland? Will I stop going to Skye because it now has windfarms?

    Cameron McNeish on his latest TV offering even suggested, rather clumsily I thought, that we might get used to 'windmills' in the same way as we did conifer plantations. The developers must have loved that.

    Mr Salmond is 'not for turning' no matter what any report says.

    Oh dear, now I'm going to bed all depressed!

  3. Byeways, Gibson: I think you are both correct. There is a huge disconnect between what governments say is good for their countries and then what they do.

    I am doing Druim Fada on Day 4 of my TGO Challenge this May, before they f*ck it up. All my Challenges are now "Goodbyes" to favourite landscapes - it's a like a Wake, every year now.

    They have already ruined the Monadhliath for me - I shan't be going there anymore.

  4. They appear not to see beyond the short term gain with the $ signs in their eyes.
    The bigger picture as with the conifers and the clearances will probably become another blackspot in the history books.

    We study history to LEARN from our past.
    I wonder is Salmond failed his GCSE?

    There was an interesting discussion yesterday morning on our ridiculous paranoia about nuclear power.
    It's ok, the French will sell it to us a few years down the line.

    Next year Al I might have to do the Balmacaan's, I'd like to see them once more as well before they get £ucked Up too.

  5. Being Dutch and coming to Scotland at least twice a year, I doubt continuing this if these plans take effect. I'm afraid I have to look for alternatives like Sweden, Norway etc. and only come over now and then to visit some friends.

    I'm sure, that with me, there will be loads of people from the continent thinking the same!

    If I want to see windmills, I rather stay home;)

  6. I agree with most of what has been said so far.

    A couple more comments:

    --developers (and Holyrood too, I'm sure) are now taking this line on wind farms: those who think they are a good idea for the environment don't mind them. Given the relentless propaganda to convince people that wind plants *are* good for the environment, that means that there is now a sizeable proportion of tourists who probably hardly notice them (because their mind tells them to shut them out of sight).

    --Holyrood has been *very* careful (with the one exception of the Braes of Doune) to site wind plants away from the main bus and tourist routes going North and West. If you start going away from the main roads, you see plenty of wind plants, but as long as you are on the A9 or the A82 and A85 (once you're past Comrie, that is), then wind plants are not that much in evidence. The East Coast is bad, but thee are fewer coach tours there. So they clearly think what matters is the busload folks who come for the tartan experience. Those who go off the beaten track, tough.
    --there was a piece on the BBC Scotland website:

    where they claimed tourists numbers are up. They don't give a break-down per region and I wonder how much the Edinburgh effect influences those figures. Edinburgh is doing extremely well for city breaks and things like that. So again as long as that holds, Salmond won't worry about that. And if numbers start going down in the Highlands, that only makes it easier for them to make the case that without wind farms community funds the local community won't make ends meet. The old subsidy culture is back in force, I'm afraid.

    Not much hope left for us anti-wind farm 'cranks'...

  7. Fascinating stuff Alan and yet sad at the same time. Tourism is often a "hidden" ecomomic driver as its benefits are often hard to quantify.

    I used to like Salmond a few years back. He seemed like a politician with integrity and honesty. Now he's been elected his proving the adage of "Absolute power corrupts absolutely". He's been elected and that gives him the "mandate" to do whatever HE thinks is best and damn anyone who diasagrees with him

    Sad times indeed

  8. Andy W & Willem: I agree with you both. For our Challenge route this year I found it harder than ever to plan a route that didn't pass by or through windfarms. I chose Druim Fada as it looks likey that it will be the last time this will be possible.
    Last year I went via the Monadhliath, passing through the sites for Dunmaglass and Allt Duine. With the huge windfarms planned for the Balmacaaan Forest and Stronelairg it looks like 2013's Challenge may well be the last time to go through those areas too.
    Let's be honest about this. Salmond is a sneaky little prick who wants more power to be the new Scottish Tsar. To fund it he will flog electricity to National Grid and completely f*ck up the mountains of Scotland and the Tourism industry of the Highlands with it. (There aren't that many votes in the Highlands anyway.)

  9. Windfarms have become a blight on our landscape as it is. From where i stay in Bathgate , west lothian, i can easily see the "farm" that's set on the hills just before Callander .. almost 40 miles away. We now have farms almost surrounding us in the central belt, including the OCHIL hills . It's bad enough here in the fairly industrial belt of Scotland, it's perhaps not so "scarring" here, but the ruination of Scotlands real beauty must be stopped .. now. I am an SNP supporter, but Alex Salmond ( and ALL other scottish ministers no matter the colour of their tie) needs to listen to all the people of Scotland when it comes protecting the countryside we all know and love. IF you have a petition i'll gladly sign it !

  10. AndyB: Thanks for that link. Salmond believes the Blue Rinse Coach Tours are the backbone of Scottish tourism. The truth is that they suck the life out of the older large run-down hotels and don't actually contribute much to the shops and villages of the Highlands. they visit "Tourism Hot-spots" like Blair Atholl, Nessie exhibits and car parks adjacent to "Beauty Spots".
    It's the B&B's that will suffer - the ones used to looking after the birdwatchers and hill walkers and mountain bikers. They will slowly be strangled as more and more of these outdoor tourists abandon the Scottish Highlands and Southern Uplands.

  11. Andy S'n'S: I agree. Salmond is obviously an incredibly able politician. To climb to the top of the Scottish Greasy Pole of politics is an achievement in itself. But to stay there and completely f*ck Scotland's natural heritage is criminal. The man abuses his power and future generations will be appalled that we have let him do it.

  12. Hi Sandy and welcome to the blog: An excellent petition to sign straight away is the one protesting against the proposed wind farm at Allt Duine - slap bang on the Cairngorm National Park Boundary.
    You can find the petition

    You can do a bit of background reading by clicking on one of my Labels at the right hand side of this blog near the top "Wind Power Stations" where there is loads of information on the proposed destruction of Scottish Landscapes and the economics of Wind Power Stations.

  13. I'm afraid Alex Salmond is simply confirming something I have long believed - that the very attributes that motivate people to become politicians are the one's we as a public least require of them.

    Sadly, bad, ill-thought-out decisions by people who should know better are per for the course these days, and it is immeasurably depressing.

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde - it's not a cynic who can be defined as knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing, it's a politician. Obviously, we can't survive in a state of total anarchy, but we do deserve far better than these clowns.

    Better a Parliament of rooks than a Parliament of crooks!

  14. Jules:
    I was always taught "Never put down to malice what could be put down to incompetence"

    In Salmond's case I am really not so sure. There is now so much evidence from Denmark & Germany about the realities of on-shore & off-shore wind energy, that it *must* be sheer bloody-mindedness and malice put together.

  15. The trouble with wind farms is that there is really no proper place for them in any situation. Chuck them on the hills and you kill eagles, ruin the peatlands and alter the landscape forever. Put them near people and you get stories likes this:

    Third day of high pressure up here in Scotland. Hard frost at night and it hardly goes above zero during the day. Heating is working hard to cope. The turbines all around here are standing still.


  16. Alt Duine rejected. Fantastic!!!!
    Now we wait for Mr Salmond....

  17. AndyB: Why am I not surprised that they have not commissioned the windfarm?
    I bet they moved heaven & earth to get it built. I wonder how long they will drag their heels before it is commissioned.

  18. Gibson: Great News, eh?

    But now we all have to ensure that Salmond gets absolutely no "wriggle-room". He is an incredibly good wriggler. We must ensure that the Public Enquiry kicks it into touch.

  19. Alan, re the Devon link I posted: indeed, no surprise that developers delay official commissioning of wind farms near habitation so that folks can't lodge a noise nuisance complaint.

    Which brings to mind the wonderful Yuri The Great of Moonlight Shadow and his demented idea that the wind industry are a bunch of knights in shining armours.

    I find it SO extraordinary that wind developers are treated with velvet gloves by folks of that ilk when the reality is that they are the same sort of bastards as the logging companies that go and rip apart tropical forests.

    Would anyone ever do a 'Local Hero' remake with the wind farm guys in the role of the villain? Aye right.

    Great news about the Altt Duine of course, Chris did really well there. But I loved the comment I read on a press report from one of the councillors who were in favour of the project: he said he was worried the area and the Council would now be tarred as anti-wind farm!! You don't want to be seen as anti-wind farm, Alan, that's what that Politico said. Unbelievable.

  20. AndyB: I think of wind farm developers as the modern day variant of Carpetbaggers: Just as unscrupulous, in it only for themselves.


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