Cameron McNeish, one of Britain’s best known mountaineers and the SNP’s latest celebrity recruit, has called on ministers to create wind-farm-free zones to protect Scotland’s most valued wilderness.
The author and broadcaster, who joined the party earlier this year, said the spread of turbines and pylons to take their power to the national grid was “scarring Scotland”.
The SNP has been widely criticised for placing too much emphasis on wind power as part of its 100% renewables target, with a growing number of critics claiming it is endangering Scotland’s mountain landscape.
McNeish, the vice president of Ramblers Scotland, said he believed the growth of wind farms was causing environmental degradation and was threatening Scotland’s tourism industry.
“More and more people have seen the effect of wind turbines, and there are growing fears that, the more we have of them, this will spoil people’s enjoyment of the hills for recreation, and tourism will suffer,” he said.
McNeish, who recently raised his concerns with Alex Salmond, said the Scottish Borders had “reached saturation point”, as had countryside between Inverness and Speyside, due to the level of wind farm development.
He has called for Scottish Natural Heritage, the environmental agency, to be involved in helping identify the country’s most valuable wilderness areas which should not be developed for wind farms. “There may well be ways of having large areas of Scotland set aside to be turbine free,” he said.
McNeish was also critical of the Beauly-Denny power lines to connect renewable energy to the national grid, describing pylons as “an archaic way of carrying power”. He added that tracks being bulldozed into the hills to build pylons meant “Scotland is being scarred from north to south”.
The government said local planning authorities, and where appropriate the Scottish government, allow wind farms to be built where impacts have been found to be acceptable.
Last week it emerged that wildlife charities, conservationists and outdoors organisations have united to condemn the government’s dash for wind energy.
Ramblers Scotland, the John Muir Trust and the Mountaineering Council of Scotland warned of the severe impact of wind turbines on the landscape and rural communities. The criticisms were published in evidence to a Scottish parliament committee investigating the dangers posed by the burgeoning renewables industry.
More than 200 wind farms have been erected or are under construction across Scotland, and a further 100 are planned.