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Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Monadhliath Mountains’ Ring of Steel: Update IV

 

THIS IS AN UPDATE, DATED 18th JANUARY 2014

In December 2010 I started writing about the threat of wind farms to the magnificent Monadhliath Mountains – specifically about the Dunmaglass Wind Farm that had just gained planning permission.

By March 2011, the situation in the Monadhliath looked like this: Farr had already been built, Kyllachy, Dunmaglass, Corriegarth and Allt Duine were now firmly on the horizon.

MARCH 2011

A few months later, in June 2011, the situation had worsened with Druim Ba, the Balmacaan and Stronelairg added to the siege:

JUNE 2011

Well, the wind industry doesn’t muck about and they now want to scorch more earth in the Monadhliath by adding in the Dell Wind Farm right next to the Stronelairg Wind Farm and Corriemoney next to the Balmacaan Plant.

MONADHLIATH RING OF STEEL SEPT 2012

[CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE]

You may have noticed that they have apparently reduced the size of the developments at Balmacaan and Stronelairg from 138 and 140 down to 36 and 83 turbines.

Well actually they haven’t at all. They are just taking them a bite at a time. Let me explain. Let’s have a look at Scottish & Southern Energy’s (SSE) Scoping document for the Balmacaan. It looked like this:

BALMACAAN WIND POWER STATION

Have a good look at this map. You’ll notice that the red boundary extends a lot further east towards Loch Ness than the turbines (each purple triangle is a 125m tall turbine) They show 138 turbines on this scoping map. But obviously there is room for about another hundred or so in the empty space. So, why did they not add them in? Well there’s the small matter of the Loch Ness Pumped Storage scheme, which looks like this:

Balmacaan Pumped Storage Scheme

[CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE]

Building a pumped storage scheme takes a huge amount of time – there’s the tunnel to dig, the haul road and the gravity dam to build, plus the turbine hall. The there’s the new pylon run to build, to link up to the Beauly-Denny line currently being constructed.

It’s far easier to build the eastwards extension of the Balmacaan Wind Farm after the pumped storage scheme is built. It then becomes a no brainer, as can be seen from the application for the Stronelairg Wind Farm the other side of Loch Ness in the Monadhliath, which will utilise the haul roads and pylons from the Glendoe Hydro project which has just been completed. After all, the mountains have already been trashed, so what’s a few more turbines?

However, even SSE hasn’t the balls or the money to flash out on a 138 turbine wind farm along with all the other wind farms, hydro schemes and new pylon runs it has on the go at the moment and so they have decided to take it a bite at a time.

For planning purposes they have renamed the first chunk as the Bhlairaidh Wind Farm. It’s for 36 turbines, each 135m high (Have you also noticed how all the turbines are getting taller with each application? Last year they were 125m tall) It looks like this:

BALMACAAN BHLAIRAIDH WIND FARM

[CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE]

So, as you can see they intend to take the first bite out of the Balmacaan, in the SW corner. You can see the outline of the eventual wind farm; It’s the orange boundary line. You’ll note the Met masts in the empty portions of the Balmacaan. They’re the first sign of a wind farm. The Met mast has just been approved over the other side of Loch Ness for the Dell Wind Farm – I received a letter confirming that a few days ago from Highland Council.

***

So – what about Stronelairg? This was the original scoping proposal for 140 turbines:

MONADHLIATH STRONELAIRG SCOPING

You’ll see that it’s bang next to the new Glendoe Hydropower reservoir.

So, what are SSE are proposing for the “scaled back” Stronelairg scheme? It looks like this:

MONADHLIATH REDUCED STRONELAIRG

[CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE]

It’s not rocket science to see which turbines are missing from the original scoping report, is it? All they will need to do is just infill the missing turbines when they want to build the next fifty. Of course, there could not possibly be any objection as they are just plugging the gaps; Hardly any new haul roads, pylons or substations will need to be built.

SSE are cunning bastards, when you think about it…

***

So, what are we to do about this?

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has, as always, been incredibly busy on our behalf. They have been looking at every wind farm application in the Scottish mountains and they object, if they think it is appropriate to do so. Here’s the letters they’ve written on our behalf for the new Dell Wind Farm and the Bhlairaidh Wind Farm

Dell Wind Farm; MCofS Letter of objection

Bhlairaidh Wind Farm: MCofS Letter of objection

For the colossal Stronelairg Wind Farm they have got together with the John Muir Trust to fight it together. Here’s the joint Press Statement:

Stronelairg Joint Press Statement

What do we need to do next? I would suggest at the very least we should be writing to the Energy Consent Unit (see the above letters for the address) and Highland Council, (again, the address can be found on the above letters) expressing our alarm and complete rejection of these proposals.

Just to remind everyone of what’s at stake here, I’ve lifted a wonderful picture of the wide open spaces of the Monadhliath Mountains from Andy Howell’s excellent TGO Challenge report:

ANDY HOWELL'S PICTURE OF MONADHLIATH MOUNTAINS

[PLEASE CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE IT TO IT’S TRUE MAGNIFICENCE!]

18th JANUARY 2014 UPDATE:

Time moves on. In the period since I last posted here, gloriously, the wind farm at Druim Ba has been thrown out!

Hurrah!

However… There has been a lot of dreadful news as well.

First: Eon have come along and proposed a 36 turbine scheme known as the Moriston wind farm. This is rated at 108MW which means 3MW turbines – so expect to see 135m turbines, at least. This will be strung along the ridge between Ft Augustus and Glen Moriston – facing the “Trees for Life” estate of Dundreggan, so they are sandwiched between Moriston and Bhlaraidh. Who on earth in the planning department let this happen?

Second: Highland Council approved the massive Stronelairg wind farm – pushed along mightily by Highland Councillors Prag & Jimmy Gray (Cunning Jim paying his dues, no doubt, to Platform PR for their dinners.) That’s a body-blow to the Monadhliath Mountains.

Third: At the back end of last year Binneun wind farm has been approved for construction. It’s immediately to the west of the Millennium wind farm and to all intents and purposes this means that that fine rocky ridge will now be strung with 45 massive wind turbines. They will be seen from the Affric hills to the north and as far south as Ben Nevis. They will be visible from the wild lands of Knoydart in the west, and from deep in the Monadh Liath to the east.

Fourth: Beinn Mhor wind farm, to the west of Corriemoney (aptly named, these days) is now being scoped for seven very large turbines.

Fifth: The most recent terrible news is that the first tranche of what used to be known by SSE as the Balmacaan wind farm (now known as Bhlaraidh wind farm) has been approved. These 32 turbines will be 433 feet tall (132m) – That’s very big indeed.

When approving Bhlaraidh, Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Government Minister for Energy & Tourism, (now there’s two deliberately conflicting interests! – well done Mr Salmond!) said:

“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of any wind farm should reflect the scale and character of the landscape, as well as being considered environmentally acceptable.”

So, the Scottish Government clearly believes that land with the wild qualities of the Balmacaan are up for grabs. Fergus is a former member of the Lomond Mountain Rescue Team, and has climbed around two thirds of Scotland's Munros. If folk like this believe that industrialising Scottish wild land is a good idea, there's absolutely no hope left of retaining a scrap of it.

As I’ve written above, expect the final numbers for this wind farm to be well in excess of 200 turbines, plus, of course, the Balmacaan Pumped Storage Scheme.

The map (increased in scope to include Binneun, Beinn Mhor & Millennium) now looks like this:

WIND FARM UPDATE 18 JAN 2014

[CLICK TO ENLARGE MAP]

And, below, I’ve shown Highland Council’s own map as of 1st January 2014. of course, Bhlaraidh wind farm should now be shown in purple as it is now approved:

 HIGHLAND COUNCIL WIND FARM MAP at 1st JAN 2014

[CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE TO FULL HORROR!]

As pretty as this map is, what it doesn’t show, of course, is what is really planned for the Balmacaan – the pumped storage scheme and the 200+ wind turbines to be taken in great lumps later on.

You can find the source map by clicking HERE. You can blow the map in that link up to a massive size and see for yourself the true horror of how the Highlands are to be destroyed by wind farms.

34 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Alan, if that's the right way of putting it. I mean, a clear, analytical summary of the kind of game these guys are playing. There's no doubt in my mind that the big guys at Holyrood have sat down with a map in front and decided which areas to destroy. It's then just a matter of telling the developers to put in as many applications as they can, reject one for symbolic reasons, approve the rest for a reduced number, then grant extensions to get the original figure back in.

    The excuse is climate change, the end result is land change on a scale not seen since the last glaciation. The hills will NEVER recover. They're lost forever. The arrogance of man at work all over again. And the idiots at the Guardian are clapping their well-manicured hands.

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    1. Clapping their hands as the people they most love to whinge about - the mega-corporations and rich landowners - trouser vast sums of public money for the privilege of wrecking the place. Oh the irony.

      Delete
    2. Hi Andy

      I agree with you. Wind turbines were promoted heavily (to start with) as Scotland's answer to reducing CO2. The fact that none is reduced at all when built of peat soils meant that Salmond and his merry (brow-beaten) men decided that Scotland's energy security was key. When it was pointed out to them that during periods when the wind wasn't blowing they would be importing power from England, they reverted to bluster. Let's hope they continue blustering - it will be the only thing that'll drive those turbines when high pressure hits.

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    3. Hi Stefan
      Indeed. The Guardian Intelligentsia have a lot to answer for. But of course, they don't have to worry about energy bills as they live comfortable lives, thank you very much.

      If they really cared for the less well-off they would be clamouring for coal fired power stations. And, as you say, the folk they detest the most - the rich landowners - are trousering the poor's money.

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    4. Well, here's another prediction, then. I bet that once the pumped storage scheme is up and running and all the wind farms are in place there, they'll rename it 'Loch Ness Energy Park', build a visitor centre selling ice cream in turbine-shaped cones and claim it as the flagship green hub of the new Scotland. Remember that Salmond has always said it he wanted to re-industrialise the Highlands. They're getting there a bit at a time, subsidy after subsidy. But if you think how prominent the Glenmoriston Millennium farm already is, and that the new ones are much taller, hill walking in the North West is now really gone forever. Glencoe is still hanging on, but I wonder for how long.

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    5. I wouldn't bet against that at all!

      Dinorwic Pumped Storage Scheme has had a swanky Visitor Centre for quite a few years now that is very popular.

      The wind farms are getting closer to Glen Coe with Talladh-a-Bheithe breathing down its neck. Then it'll be the moor, proper - what a waste of space that is! - A huge boggy mess...
      :-(

      Delete
  2. Just makes me want to go and punch a politician.
    There is a hit list, but any will do.
    Especially GREEN? ones, and Salmond, Ewing, Davey, Milliband etc etc etc...
    It could become a career, the list is soooo long

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    Replies
    1. The politicians are also victims of green propaganda. A few years back saying you hated wind farms was akin to saying you were a kiddie-fiddler. It became impossible to publicly go against the green juggernaut. It had become embedded in the nation's psyche.
      It has taken quite a bit of courage for people like Owen Paterson to stand up to monsters like Chris Huhne and Ed Davey and tell them some plain truths.

      Not all politicians are bad; it takes courage to fight public opinion (especially when it could mean you lose your livelihood at an election), however misplaced that opinion is at the time.

      The people who should be held to account are those that blindly go along with this green nonsense without questioning what it is doing to the countryside and people's jobs.

      However, I would be next in line in wanting to "having a chat" with Salmond, Ewing, Davey and Miliband - plus a whole host more!
      :-)

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    2. I was thinking more BAT than Chat.
      Even Patterson is agreeing to the notion of building on ancient woodland .
      So maybe just the Nibblick for him rather than the Driver.

      Delete
  3. As Coordinator of the Scottish Wild Land Group I despair at the approval of the Bhlaraidh development. Should the Moriston development be approved Dundreggan Estate (Trees for Life) will be caught in a pincer movement for all its work with tree regeneration, biodiversity and rewilding. It is my conviction that Bhlaraidh must be seen as "the last straw" with every organisation from NTS to SWLG saying "enough and no further".

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    1. Hello Jack.

      Thank you for commenting. I hadn't realised that they had named the Inverwick proposal as Moriston - I shall change the map accordingly in a few days time.

      You're spot on: If Moriston gets the go-ahead Trees for Life will be straddled by wind farms. Such short sightedness.

      I note from your blog that back in 2009 you were calling for the Scottish Government to carry out a consultation on wind farms, so that the Scots could make a value judgement based on evidence presented to them. Of course, it did not happen. The SNP simply rammed their wind farms through, As you are no doubt aware, under EU law, this is actually illegal, as a couple of test cases have shown in Europe.

      Swinney, Ewing and Salmond should be held to account for this blatant disregard for the opinions of the Scottish people. Of course, nothing will happen.

      Good luck with your continuing battle to save wild land on our behalf.

      Delete
  4. The tragedy is that numerous anti-wind farm proposals have been fought as though they were discrete issues when, in fact, it is clear that there has been a blueprint for a multinational wind empire since before the approval of the Beauly-Denny pylon upgrade (as Alan's maps make so abundantly clear). Our leading politicians have behaved like Al Capone and Bugsy Moran - except that they have a whole country to carve up!

    We desperately need a coordinated effort to oppose this travesty of an energy policy.

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    1. Hi Evan.
      Thank you for your comment. It's true that a few years ago the wind farm developers were picking off isolate communities like they were shelling peas. However this now an organisation Scotland Against Spin who are a really effective campaigning outfit.
      Drop by their Facebook page (that I linked to) in this comment and see if you can lend a hand.
      There's a huge amount of work to do and doing it together gives us more chance of success.

      Delete
  5. Such a disgrace that this is allowed to happen. Politicians, especially the SNP, will have a lot to answer to when the people of Scotland wake up to the 'scam' of wind turbines. I also find it hard to believe that all members of the SNP believe and support wind turbines, and that absolutely none of them are willing to speak out against them. Is it the case that they all all so stupid? Or is it the case that Salmond is such a little despot, that they are all feart to stand up to him?

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    1. Hi, Invernowie, and welcome

      You're right; it is an absolute disgrace. Salmond has such a stranglehold on his party that it seems no-one within dare challenge him (directly) on his wind farm policies.

      I know of one prominent outdoorsman - an SNP supporter - who is fiercely anti-wind, but seems to have ducked the fight when he actually had Salmond's ear.

      Get rid of Salmond and Scottish wind policy will unravel overnight.

      The Highlands are against wind. Business is against wind, as it increases raw costs. But business is petrified of speaking out as the SG has such a grip.

      Delete
  6. Hi Alan,
    I think I know your 'prominent outdoorsman', and have to admit, I'm disgusted with his lack of actions against useless turbines and the destruction they cause to our landscapes.
    I did suggest to him some years back, that he use his influence with a highly bias TV station to at least attempt to give a more balanced view point to the whole wind industry. Unfortunately, he pooh pooh'd this. Perhaps he's looking for an 'Independent Scottish Knighthood'?

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    1. It was pointed out to me, fairly, I believe, that with television it's the producer who gets the final say on what's included in the final programme, so on that score I would give him the benefit of doubt.
      However, to share a platform when launching the "yes" campaign in Edinbugh with Salmond and having prepared a speech that attacked the SNP's wind farm policies and then not include it - is frankly, very disappointing.

      He put it down to "time pressure on the day."

      Delete
  7. Thanks for your support Alan. We should note also that SSE have applied for an extention to Fairburn which is actually 5km away from the original. Extension? We call it by it's original name "The Orrin Wind Farm". Also in Glen Orrin, close to the Glen Affric/Strathconon Golden Eagle SPA we are faced with the German Company ABO planning a twenty five turbine wind farm. They are also planning another wind farm on the lower slopes of Ben Wyvis at Woodlands Farm. When they arrived in the Highlands with plans to build five wind farms they were officially welcomed by Fergus Ewing. A German Company with German Directors building wind farms on absentee landlords estates. Two points of interest. SSE have never had a wind farm refused and Fergus Ewing has pointed out that he is not actually a Cabinet Minister. So even he dances to the First Minister's tune. Who in fact are the Cabinet Minsters? Salmond, Swinney and Sturgeon?

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    1. It all comes down to economics in the end.

      Britain has no money. It has Europe breathing down its neck, coupled with massive pressure from the left and the greenies, to reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions. Now, whether you believe that CO2 is a problem or not, it it the current political reality. [I say "political" advisedly.]

      Now, with no money and having to shut down our perfectly serviceable coal plants, it means that we have to go cap in hand to foreign investors (even our own energy companies are largely foreign owned) to build new electrical generation plants. The scandal in all this is being forced to shut down perfectly good thermal plants. The greenies' preference of wind just illustrates their complete lack of any grasp of economic and engineering acumen. It's bad enough having to buy nuclear at £92.50/MWh but to want to build onshore wind at a similar price when it is intermittent in supply is utter madness. Then couple this decision with all the added costs of new transmission lines, the added costs to the traditional generators of having to restrict supply when the wind does blow, and the appalling effects of wind farms on local businesses, health and house prices and you have a recipe for disaster.

      And these wind power stations are destroying one of Scotland's most priceless assets - its magnificent countryside.

      Delete
  8. This is an excellent blog, Alan. I hadn't appreciated the scale of the proposed rape of the Monadhliath mountains. It is quite horrific and it's even more astounding that this nefarious government is enabling this to happen - the countryside simply does not belong to this transient SNP government.
    Once developers get a toehold, then it would appear that the entire vista around this is fair game for all the heathens running wind developing companies.

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    1. Hi Geomac

      I'm completely convinced that large tracts of Scotland were sacrificed to wind turbines years ago by the politicians. The Monadhliath Mountains were a perfect target: Not many Munros & Corbetts, outside the Cairngorm National Park (just), close to the new Beauly-Denny super-pylon route and with relatively easy access from trunk routes for easy installation. It was a no-brainer for the Central-belt politicians.

      The industrialisation of Scotland's wild lands has been a stitch-up from the very start. Salmond wants it for the income from England. And the beauty of it all (for Salmond) is that it's the English who are paying for the building of the wind farms through the ROCs so that they can then buy back the power at an inflated price.

      Delete
  9. I'm with you all. Notwithstanding the eyesores that they are, the habitat destruction alone is tantamount to a wildlife crime IMO.

    Keep it up Alan. Thanks on behalf of us all.

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    1. Thanks, Carl.
      :-)
      I agree. Before they even go for planning, unscrupulous estates start by destroying raptors' nesting sites, so when it comes to "perform" the environmental audit, surprise, surprise! - there are very few raptors now on the estate, so the RSPB doesn't object (when does it object?) Once the turbines are built, the habitat has become worthless to the raptors and so they just don't come back. It's the equivalent of the "Raptor Clearances."

      Delete
  10. I'm going to start doing my hillwalking in Buckinghamshire. Funny how there's few windfarms there. BTW, whats happening with the SNH map of wild land - thrown out the windae I suppose?

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    1. Hi Anon
      Those SNH maps, which I lasted posted HERE used to be published quarterly. It seems they are now only posted annually. I suppose this could be put down to pressure of work? Or perhaps it was becuase they were beginning to appear publicly at an alarming rate. They had always been buried within SNH's website and were difficult to find:

      "But Mr Dent, the plans have been available in the local planning office for the last nine months."

      "Oh yes, well as soon as I heard I went straight round to see them, yesterday afternoon. You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them, had you? I mean, like actually telling anybody or anything."

      "But the plans were on display ..."

      "On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them."

      "That's the display department."

      "With a flashlight."

      "Ah, well the lights had probably gone."

      "So had the stairs."

      "But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

      "Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.


      Buckinghamshire is jolly nice, you know... We have the Chilterns down here... Red Kites soaring above, the wild lonely corries... oh. wait.

      Delete
    2. Ha yes, Buckinghamshire is nice but Its not the fantastic NW Highlands thats for sure. I just hope they stay fantastic. Great blog Alan I have learned a lot.

      Delete
  11. You say that the Milenium cluster is visible deep into the Monadh Liath, actually it's visible from the EAST end of Cairngorms National Park, as I noticed one cloudy afternoon.

    Funny how no politician or company director has said "once there are enough wind farms, we can start leaving oil/gas/coal fields in the ground". Will never happen of course. So if we're going to burn it all anyway, building a million wind farms won't make any difference to eventual CO2 levels. And despite SSE planning the best wind farm in the world on Shetland, they are very quietly applying for an even bigger fossil fuelled power station in Lerwick to replace the old one.

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    1. The experience of the Germans and Danes, who are a few years "ahead" of us (if you call building wind farms progress...) show that not a single thermal generation plant has shut down because it has been replaced by wind.
      Of course this is the case, as the wind only blows for some of the time! What wind does do however, is increase the cost of thermally generated electricity, as the plants have their supply choked off when wind blows, making the power stations far less economic and so the prices have to rise so they can stay in business. Because it is much easier to ramp down a gas plant, rather than a coal plant, the emissions saved from not burning the gas are far fewer then the greenies would have you believe.

      Thanks for the information about the views from the Cairngorms of the Millennium wind farm. Depressing.

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    2. Not only have no politicians said that there are enough wind turbines to enable fossil fuels to be left in the ground, but the SNP are basing the economic future of an independent Scotland on North Sea fossil fuels!!

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    3. Indeed!
      :-)
      But if you believe every press statement on how many homes each wind farm is going to power, by now Scottish wind farms should be powering the whole of the UK!

      Delete
  12. Thank you for your excellent post. The Highland Council Map is very distressing. I spend a lot of time NW of Lairg near Loch Shin and that area is getting covered - almost the worst in Scotland. I am objecting to the terrible Sallachy WF right at the foot of Ben More Assynt and the Assynt National Scenic Area but the Highland Council has said "no objection" so it's in the hands of the ministers. Many thanks for the fight, Edward

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    1. Hi Edward.

      I walked through that area on my LEJOG in 2007. It is incredibly distressing to see how the Scottish Government is destroying such wonderful land. Good luck with Sallachy.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Delete
  13. For anyone who's interested, the JMT has sent out an e-mail alerting us to the fact that the version of the National Planning Framework 3 currently being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament has dropped all references to the principle of protecting Scotland's wild land. I've spent a while today writing hard copy letters to my Constituency MSP and regional MSPs to protest about this. Meanwhile, SNH's map of core wild land areas has been put out to consultation, presumably because the government - let's drop the capital it doesn't deserve - didn't like how much of Scotland was included in the map. It's an utter outrage and I'm ashamed to be a Scot.

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    1. Hi Jane

      I am desperately sorry to hear this.

      Scottish access law is amongst the finest in the world and the Scottish Government deserve high praise for it. I cannot understand how the same country's present administration can even begin to countenance the vandalism they are currently perpetrating. And now to remove protection for what little wild land is left (which had already reduced by over a third since the first study had appeared) is abhorrent.

      Of course, it's all to do with the SNP's headlong rush for independence. Trashing the wild land for power plants - wind turbines and hydro schemes, with all their associated haul roads, pylons and substations. Salmond's theory is that this will give Scotland exportable electricity to boost the coffers of his new nation. What the idiot doesn't realise is that this policy, coupled with the closure of thermal powers stations, will result in Scotland being a net IMPORTER of electricity. It's just as well he's building the new inter-connectors with England, as he will need them to keep Scotland's lights on.

      The JMT, MCofS and the SWLG should be applauded to the rafters for their continuing fight against this lunacy.

      Delete

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