Critical appraisal of the Biggar Economics research report ‘Wind farms and tourism trends in Scotland’
Executive summary of main points—
The reasons that Biggar Economics’ methodology is inappropriate are:
a. It focuses only on the correlation between wind farm construction and operation with employment trends – ignoring other major influences such as currency fluctuations or post 2007/8 recovery;
b. It uses a short and selective timeframe, ending in 2013 though official figures are available for 2014. If 2009 to 2014 had been used instead, stated employment growth across Scotland would have been much lower than the 2009-2013 figures, so it would not demonstrate a significant trend;
c. It includes spending by local and business people in hotels, restaurants and other sectors which is classed as ‘tourism-characteristic’ activities, though statistics professionals agree this ‘non-visitor’ spend will be at least 50% of the total;
d. It includes the large urban tourism sector in the all-Scotland figures when the contentious issue is impacts on nature and landscape tourism in rural and remote areas;
e. There is a circularity in including wind farm construction workers’ direct impacts on spending and employment multipliers (often cited by developers as a significant boost in its own right to local employment) as part of “tourism” figures;
f. Biggar Economics ignores the ONS caveats and methodological advice on small-scale studies (‘Measuring Tourism Locally’ Guidance Notes 1&2), especially the unreliability caused in small studies by using rounded ONS national survey figures inappropriately.
Douglas Wynn BSc (Soc) MSc (Econ)
An opinion for the John Muir Trust
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