Tourists will not be put off coming to Scotland because of wind farms, a study revealed yesterday.
Three-quarters of visitors were either positive or neutral about the developments and just 3% said they would shun the country because of them, researchers found.
The findings will come as a huge relief to the Scottish Government, which has set ambitious targets for expanding both tourism and renewable energy.
Enterprise Minister Jim Mather, whose brief includes both tourism and energy, said the study showed the two aims were compatible.
He said: “It provides further evidence to support our approach to progress the right developments in the right location. Harnessing our renewables potential, while driving an increase in tourism revenue, will bring sustainable economic growth to all parts of Scotland.”
The work was carried out by researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University on behalf of the Scottish Government. It was designed to detail the economic impact of the planned expansion of wind farms, good and bad, on the holiday industry.
Mr Mather said: “The study looked at potential impacts if all planned onshore wind farms are approved, but we know that not every wind farm application will receive consent.
“That’s why our renewables policy is more than just onshore wind – we want Scotland to become the green energy capital of Europe, utilising the whole renewables mix from biomass to the energy we can generate from wave and tide.”
The Scottish Government’s targets are to generate 50% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewables by 2020, and grow tourism revenues by 50% in the 10 years to 2015, although sceptics are already questioning the viability of the latter. Wind farms remain highly controversial in many of Scotland’s beauty spots. The Scottish Government has already signalled that it is minded to refuse permission for the biggest proposed yet, on Lewis.
Yesterday, campaigners warned Monarch of the Glen country risks being “desecrated” by wind farms.
Several locations featured in the hit BBC comedy have been earmarked for renewable projects, including Loch Laggan, Loch Ericht and the Monadhliath uplands.
Broadcaster and author Cameron McNeish said many residents may not know about the schemes because they are included in local plans for Lochaber rather than Badenoch and Strathspey thanks to an anomaly rising from the creation of the Cairngorm National Park.
Mr McNeish said: “I’m sure many people will have serious concerns about the development of future wind farms in the Loch Laggan, Loch Ericht and Monadliath areas.
“Such a betrayal of these areas to industrial development may only be a long-term vision at this point, but it’s very disturbing that Highland Council is even considering allowing such development in iconic and well-loved landscapes like these.”
Neither Lochaber nor Badenoch and Strathspey featured in the Glasgow Caledonian study.
It focused on four areas in detail – Caithness and Sutherland, Stirling, Perth and Kinross, the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway.
David Leask and Alistair Munro
13 March 2008
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