Wind farms could cost the Scottish tourism industry millions of pounds and hundreds of lost jobs in a “worst case scenario”, a report warned yesterday.
The findings came in research that found wind farms had the potential for hitting jobs in tourism.
The research was commissioned by the Scottish Government from Glasgow Caledonian University to assess what effect official priorities for wind farms were likely to have on tourism, for good or ill.
Four areas were studied – the Borders; Caithness and Sutherland; Dumfries and Galloway, and Stirling, Perth and Kinross.
For each area, the researchers estimated the likely impact on the tourism economy by 2015 of all the wind farms needed to meet the renewables obligation, compared to a situation where there were no wind farms.
It was estimated that Stirling, Perth and Kinross would lose £6.3 million in tourism income and 339 jobs; Dumfries and Galloway £4.1 million and 277 jobs; the Borders £1.7 million and 81 jobs, and Caithness and Sutherland £700,000 and 30 jobs.
But the researchers say these totals cannot be added up to give a Scotland-wide figure – as any tourists put off visiting an area with many wind farms were likely to head somewhere else in Scotland.
The job figures are not immediate – some “adjustment” may already have taken place.
The rest relates to a reduction in the number of future jobs to be created by tourism spending, and does not take into account jobs created by the wind-farm industry.
A survey showed 39 per cent of respondents were “positive” about wind farms, 36 per cent had no opinion either way and 25 per cent were negative.
The report said: “The results confirm that a significant minority, 20 per cent to 30 per cent, of tourists preferred landscapes without wind farms.
“However, of those, only a very small group were so offended that they changed their intentions about revisiting Scotland.”
It went on: “If the renewables target is met via substantial wind-farm development, Scottish tourism revenues in 2015 are forecast to be only 0.18 per cent lower in 2015 than they would have been if there were no wind farms in Scotland.”
This change would mean that in 2015 there would be some £4.7 million less in the Scottish economy, the report said.
For national planning purposes, the report concludes that having several wind farms in sight at any one time is “undesirable”.
It says the loss of value when moving from medium to large wind farm developments is not as great as the initial loss.
“It is the basic intrusion into the landscape that generates the loss of value for tourists,” it said.
“Overall, the finding of the research is that if the tourism and renewable industries work together to ensure that suitably sized wind farms are sensitively sited, whilst at the same time affording parts of Scotland protection from development, then the impacts on anticipated growth paths are expected to be so small that there is no reason to believe that Scottish Government targets for both sectors are incompatible.”
• A group of crofters in Shetland have voiced their opposition to plans to site 11 wind turbines in their area as part of a massive wind-farm development totalling 154 turbines.
The Sustainable Shetland group said some 20 crofters with sheep on the Aithsting Common Grazings “appeared to be quite resolute in their opposition” to the proposed Viking Energy wind farm.
By Joe Quinn
13 March 2008
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