In all the rhetoric and argument over the Lewis wind farm proposal what is happening on our doorstep is largely ignored. Of course it is not such an emotive argument as that concerning the Outer Hebrides, but it is arguably more significant. Last week the Scottish Government’s approved a 68-turbine site in Perthshire, it’s great news according to the energy minister Jim Mather. “There is no doubt that this country can become the green energy capital of Europe.” This mantra’s beginning to wear a bit thin and its time we started to think in a more holistic way about of impact of wind farms; especially as it affects tourism. This is especially important in the Borders where tourism is our single biggest industry. And as some of you may recall Alex Salmond said, before the election, that there needed to be a curb onshore wind farm development.
Over the past six years the Lammermuir Hills have steadily been allowed to become the wind farm capital of Scotland – and arguably Europe – as there are already 188 turbines either operating, being erected or approved. Today a public enquiry is to begin in Duns over the latest scheme, the Fallago Ridge wind farm, on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe.
This latest wind farm, if approved, will increase the number of turbines in the Lammermuir Hills to 236, which would represent 15% of the total turbines in Scotland. Naturally it will be argued that the scheme will help to make Scotland the green energy capital of Europe and little attention will be paid to how much money is to be made by both the developer and the landowner. Unusually in the case of Fallago Ridge the landowner and developer are inexorably linked because the Duke is also a shareholder in North British Windpower. This means that some of the huge subsidies that are paid to developers will benefit the Duke to the tune of tens of millions of pounds over the lifetime of the wind farm. We can also assume that he will also receive some additional benefit as a shareholder in the development.
On the Duke’s web site he proudly announces. “I have endeavoured to expand the Estates operations into the more commercial tourist related areas, which complement the stunning Borders countryside I and my family are fortunate enough to live in” Does he think the Fallago Ridge wind farm will become a tourist attraction? Or is it that they are sited far enough away from his estate at Kelso as to not affect his tourism income? The fact is that local councils and the Scottish Government have allowed the systematic ruination of the Lammermuir Hills in the pursuit of the elusive green energy ‘goals’. Areas of Great Landscape Value, SSSI’s and local opinion have been ignored. Meanwhile one of the south of Scotland’s last wild places is steadily being taken by stealth allowing the rich to get richer while Scotland becomes the poorer.
By Richard Havers
5 February 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding