A coalition of politicians, industry experts, environmental groups and members of the public has delivered a collective warning to the Scottish Government not to create a “Klondyke Wind Rush” in its bid to become 100% dependent on clean energy sources.
The landmark Scottish National Wind Farm Conference saw turbines variously described as “destructive menaces” that were “harmful to human health and mental wellbeing” and “symptomatic of a shambolic Government planning system”.
The Cats (Communities Against Turbines Scotland) event in Ayr was attended by representatives of the John Muir Trust, the Ramblers’ Association, the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland and local residents, led by Rhona Weir, the widow of environmentalist Tom Weir.
The Scottish Government has pledged the country will generate the equivalent of 100% of its demand for electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. In May, First Minister Alex Salmond vowed to move “still faster and further” to secure the country’s place as the green energy powerhouse of Europe.
Yesterday’s event, chaired by Labour MSP Graeme Pearson and attended by 300 people, was organised with the aim of putting pressure on the Westminster and Scottish governments to create a national energy policy to halt the “scourge” of wind farms on the Scottish landscape.
One of the most pressing concerns was the number of applications for what delegates regarded as “inappropriately” located wind turbines that were being approved.
Howard Wilkinson, whose Ayrshire home overlooks 100 turbines at the Whitelees wind farm, was concerned about the “inconsistent” planning guidelines.
He said: “I’m a great believer in renewable energy and agree we need wind farms, but they need to be placed sensitively … It’s as if all the planning guidelines are being overwritten in order to reach Government targets.”
Dr Chris Hanning, of Leicester University Hospitals, said studies conducted in the United States and Canada showed rural communities felt the negative health impacts of wind turbines more keenly than those in urban communities and that they can interrupt sleep.
Dr Malcolm Swinbanks, a noise and vibration analyst, agreed the low-frequency rumble of turbines was heard more in rural locations, where tolerance decreases. “In rural locations, the ears are like wide open eyes,” he said. “To accuse people living in the countryside of being Nimbys is adding real insult to real injury.”
Dr Swinbanks read out a statement from Dr Sarah Laurie, an Australian GP who was invited to speak at the conference but who could not attend.
She said: “The time for the denial of the serious adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines on nearby residents globally is well and truly over. There are now hundreds of case reports in Australia, the UK, Europe, Canada, the US and New Zealand of people who have been seriously affected: some have left their homes, some their farms as well.
“Some have signed confidentiality agreements in exchange for being bought out in order to regain their health.
“It is my opinion that the only reason for this practice of secrecy clauses has been to keep these health problems out of the public view.”
Noise consultant Dr Dick Bowdler said the public felt they were being treated unfairly, and believed in the “malfeasance” of developers and local councils, because it was they who made money from turbines, while the public were left to pay for it.
Dave Morris, director of the Ramblers’ Association, attracted a standing ovation from delegates when he asked if the time had not now come for the Government to look again at the Beauly-Denny power lines and others that will come to south-west Scotland.
He said the cost for the controversial line of “mega pylons” carrying energy through some of Scotland’s most breathtaking countryside to the national grid has doubled since the first public inquiry, and it was suggested that a second inquiry into its feasibility should now be held.
Chick Brodie, SNP MSP for South Scotland, told the conference he was making it his personal task to look closely at the many applications due to go before the local authorities in his constituency.
He added: “I am astounded at the number of applications that are going ahead.”