Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the adventurer and outdoor campaigner, has launched a scathing attack on the Scottish executive’s renewable energy policy, claiming the country’s landscape is being ruined by wind turbines.
Fiennes, a world-renowned explorer and mountaineer, accused ministers of creating a blight across much of rural Scotland and of putting the country’s tourism industry at risk.
He said rural communities were threatened with destruction and urged Jack McConnell, the first minister, to scrap his renewables target until other methods of green energy generation are found.
The Scottish executive has set a target of producing 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The majority of Britain’s wind farms will be north of the border, with more than 6,400 planned turbines, many up to 400ft high.
Fiennes, 62, insists he is not against renewable energy but said he and many other visitors would no longer come to Scotland if the countryside was scarred by “grotesque” turbines.
“I know Scotland very well and I have spent a great deal of time up there. I love the place and it would appear the turbines are being foisted on the Scottish people and that the local populace are being ridden over roughshod,” he said.
“My message (to McConnell) would be to scrap the 2020 target unless you can see your way to doing it offshore. Nobody could possibly deny that turbines ruin the landscape visually and I would have to knock Scotland off my list as a destination of rare beauty if masses of them were built.
“I tell my foreign friends the place to go in Britain for real rugged, scenic beauty is Scotland, but I will definitely stop doing that if masses of turbines are built in lovely remote areas. I believe all of us in Britain should start fighting this now, not just when it arrives on our doorstep.”
To date more than 640 wind turbines have been built in Scotland, 263 are under construction and about 500 have received planning consent. A further 2,000 turbines are proposed with many more planning applications expect- ed in the coming months. One of the largest proposals is for 181 turbines on the Isle of Lewis.
Fiennes’s comments were welcomed by campaign groups, which blame subsidies for fuelling a green goldrush. “Our members are concerned that onshore turbines will damage the scenic beauty of the area they walk in,” said Patrick Grady, from the Ramblers Association. “There should be an emphasis on offshore wind farms.”
Bill Wright, from the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said: There are tremendous opportunities with tidal and offshore wind but the problem has been the lack of research in alternatives to onshore wind energy.”
Fiennes, the first man to trek to the North and South poles, is the latest celebrity to criticise the renewable energy drive. Noel Edmonds, the television presenter, and Dr David Bellamy, the botanist, believe turbines are too inefficient as they depend on consistently strong winds.
However, Barbara Clark, from VisitScotland, the tourism agency, dismissed claims that it was failing to protest against wind farm proposals in sensitive areas. “If we think a wind farm will damage a tourism area then of course we would object. We know the scenery is one of the main reasons people come to Scotland. But it very much depends on where the wind farm is positioned,” she said.
The Scottish executive said: “We are determined to make Scotland the renewable energy powerhouse of Europe. The rigorous planning guidelines that exist in this country will ensure that it doesn’t come at a cost to tourism or the environment.”
By Mark MacAskill
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