There is a creeping tragedy being played out in the Scottish Highlands. We are losing more and more of our wild places to industrialisation from wind power stations. If we do not act now, standing on a windswept hilltop, seeing nothing but miles and miles of hills stretching out like vast Atlantic rollers in every direction will very soon be a thing of the past.
It’s generally agreed that ‘renewable energy’ should be part of our energy portfolio, so that we will be less reliant on fossil fuels. There are those that say this is vital so that we can reduce our carbon emissions. Whatever your viewpoint, it is clear that wind power is here right now and expanding fast.
The wind industry has been rapacious in it’s quest for more and land to site larger and larger turbines. As the obvious sites are now drying up, the application for these wind “farms” are now encroaching on more and more of our wild land. There are currently about 3,500 wind turbines in Britain’s countryside, but there are plans to increase this number to 10,000. As an example of the difficulties now facing the developers searching for suitable sites, the latest scheme is for turbines on one of Scotland’s finest Munros, Ben Wyvis, which I wrote about last year.
With literally thousands of wind turbines in the planning process it is becoming more and more difficult for communities to fund and fight these applications. There is no coordinating organisation that works to fight these applications. There is no central government planning policy saying where windfarms should be sited. Each application stands or falls on it’s own merits.
Clearly. this is an unacceptable situation. Individual communities just don’t have the money, know-how or the muscle to fight these well funded developers and so with government guidelines stressing the need for renewables, the government appointed planning inspectors generally pass all the appeals from the developers should the local planners refuse the applications.
Recently, the Bill Bryson and the CPRE came out against poorly sited wind farms and now the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has come out fighting. It has published a manifesto for onshore wind farms:
In the introduction, it states:
“The mountains and wild places of Scotland are a national asset beyond price, yet they risk being irrevocably damaged by commercial wind farm developments.
This document reflects the determination of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland to defend this precious resource. It examines some of the issues and proposes practical action to balance the need for clean energy with the need to conserve our natural heritage.”
They call for
- A halt to all commercial wind farms encroaching on the land of the Munros and Corbett's or having an adverse or significant impact on their visual amenity.
- Clear, unequivocal national and local policy statements declaring that there will be no future commercial wind farm developments in these areas
- A holistic Scottish energy strategy which includes the siting of wind farms
- Firm commitments by parties, politicians, planners and wind farm developers that they will protect Scotland’s mountains from unwelcome change.
In the concluding paragraph of the manifesto, it states:
“Scotland needs coherent policies, strategies and implementation to replace the current piecemeal and subjective approach. These must guarantee that the Munros and Corbetts are protected. In doing this, the country can become a leader in renewable energy best-practice, contributing to the long-term success of the switch to clean energy by maintaining public support and by protecting places that are of irreplaceable scenic, cultural, social and natural significance.”
In effect, they have drawn a line in the sand. It has to be drawn somewhere and I suppose it is easier to defend already quantified hills rather than a generic "wild land" approach. It's important now that everyone gets behind this and gives it a good shove, right beneath every Scottish politicians' nose to let them know that they cannot continue to destroy the wild places.
It would be great if you could read the Manifesto in full and then pass on the link to all your friends. If everyone in Scotland could email it to their local MSP they might, just might, listen and take action to defend Scotland’s wild places.