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Visitor survey's accuracy is called into question  

Further to the article in last week’s ‘Northern Scot’ claiming that wind farms do not deter tourists, I feel that before folk think “so that’s okay then, wind farms will not affect our tourist industry”, they should be aware of a few facts about this great survey being put forward by the Executive and “delighted” wind farm developers.

This Government-commissioned report claims that 97% of people surveyed said that wind farms would have no impact on their decision to return to Scotland.

In 2005/06 (source: Visit Scotland) 2.39 million overseas visitors came to Scotland – who knows how many came from the UK or via their own cars from European destinations? That’s a lot of people; they bring in a huge amount to the Scottish economy and provide for many thousands of jobs.

So given that tourism is so important to Scotland – and our Government would not disagree with this statement – exactly how many visitors do readers think participated in this survey? 3,000? Perhaps 5,000 would give an accurate picture?

Nope! The results of this survey on which the Executive is grandly basing its claims was carried out with just 380 visitors on an “intercept” basis – I assume this means face to face – and an “Internet” survey, whatever this means, of a further 600 people in the UK and 100 in the USA who either had been to, or were planning to come to, Scotland.

Just think about that for a second; 380 people surveyed in “real life” out of millions of “real life” visitors to Scotland. To claim that this survey represents an accurate snapshot of visitors’ views is simply outrageous.

Scotland, while not a big country, is hugely diverse in its attractions for visitors. From the stark beauty and isolation of the Western Isles to the incredible scenery on our own doorstep in Moray; from the history and culture evident through our castles, monuments and Highland games to the vibrant big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow; from country pursuits, mountaineering, walking and cycling to simply enjoying the open space and peace, Scotland has a memory to offer everyone.

How on earth can the views of just 380 people surveyed in just four areas – Caithness and Sutherland, Stirling, Perth and Kinross, the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway – be realistic?

Just to put this into perspective. During 2008, accommodation providers, on behalf of SOS (Save Our Scenery) Moray, are carrying out our own survey of visitors in the area from Tomintoul to Dufftown. So far, just from my visitors alone, I have 67 completed surveys. The survey has been careful to be very neutral, and I say to my guests: “I don’t care what you views are; I just want your views … pro, anti, I don’t mind”.

The early results are interesting, with 16% saying that they would probably not return to the area if the wind farm on the Glenfiddich Estate is built.

Early results? Yes. But we will be able to base our findings on around 1,000 surveys by the year end just for this small area alone.

In the published response to the findings of the survey, the Executive said, and I quote: “In light of the tourism industry and the Scottish Government’s shared ambition to grow tourism revenues by 50% in the 10 years to 2015, it is vital that the potential impact of wind farms on tourism is accurately assessed, to allow informed, appropriate decisions to be made on their suitability and location”.

I for one simply do not know how they dare have the nerve to claim that their survey shows that there is no problem with tourism and wind farms when it was based on such a tiny sample.

As for Jim Mather saying that “…the research confirms that this Government’s ambitious targets on renewable energy and tourism are entirely compatible”. It’s almost as good as Tony Blair and his 45 minutes!

I would urge our local MPs, MSPs, councillors and all of us who live here to seriously consider what is being lost by allowing unfettered building of industrial scale wind farms. We all live here and, to some extent, take our scenery for granted seeing it day in day out, but when I greet guests arriving for their holiday, having driven up from Englandshire, through the industrial heartlands, the first words they usually say are: “Wow, what a lovely view.”

I’d kind of like to keep that welcome. – Yours etc,

Robert McHugh, Secretary, SOS (Save Our Scenery) Moray, Auchinhandoch, Dufftown.

The Northern Scot

11 April 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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