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No wind farms in wilderness, say most Scots

Zones free from wind farms should be created to protect Scotland’s most valued countryside from the march of the
turbines, most Scots believe.

A Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland found that 57% of voters believe onshore wind projects should not be permitted in sensitive wilderness areas, with only 9% saying they should be allowed.

In addition, 37% of Scots said there should be buffer zones around communities in areas where turbines are not banned.

It follows growing concern about the rapid spread of wind energy schemes, which critics claim is endangering the landscape. More than 200 wind farms have been erected or are under construction in Scotland and a further 100 are planned.

Last month, the Scottish government was accused by the Conservatives of “sending an open invitation” to wind farm companies to descend on Scotland, after ordering councils to identify more land where turbines can be located.

In a letter from two government ministers, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities was asked to earmark more land for the developments as the SNP attempts to meet its 100% renewable energy target.

Earlier this year, Cameron McNeish, the mountaineer, urged ministers to create wind-farm-free zones.

Last night, he welcomed the poll findings. “While many of us are fully aware of the need to combat climate change and meet future energy needs, these wild land areas that we cherish so much in Scotland are a vital resource in terms of tourism,” he said. “We get thousands of people from Europe to walk in these areas and we need to balance the areas where we have turbines while protecting these resources that are vital for tourism.

“It’s encouraging so many people in Scotland feel this should be the case, so maybe there is room for the Scottish government to come up with some new designation to protect these areas.”;

The SNP has been criticised for placing too much emphasis on wind power as part of its renewables target. However, the poll of 1,012 people found support for the government. Just over half (52%) back the SNP’s plans for 100% of Scotland’s energy to come from renewable sources, while 36% believe conventional forms of power, including nuclear, should continue to play a role.

While one in five believes there are too many wind farms, just over a quarter (26%) say the number is “about right” and 35% say there are not enough.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The government agrees we must protect national parks and other areas valued for their beauty. That is why we ask local authorities to identify areas requiring significant protection in their development plans.

“There are no wind farms in our two national parks, and Scotland’s planning system provides the necessary protection to ensure this remains the case and wind-farm developments do not impact upon our nationally protected landscapes.”