Furious families who live along Scotland’s longest walk have branded VisitScotland’s hostility to wind farms as “too little, too late”.
Last week we told how the national tourism agency had raised concerns about plans to site turbines next to the Southern Upland Way.
The intervention was seen as significant as it put the Scottish Government-funded quango on a collision course with its paymasters.
Now those whose homes sit on the edge of the 212-mile hiking path have condemned the time it has taken VisitScotland to make their views known.
They claim the coast-to-coast route, which links Portpatrick in the west and Cockburnspath in the east, has already been blighted by wind farms.
Father-of-two George Bias, 49, of Elvanfoot, South Lanarkshire, said: “I live on the Southern Upland Way and I can see 22 turbines from my window.
“It took me 20 years to find this home and when I moved in five years ago there wasn’t a single turbine within sight.
“Now there are plans to build even more and one of them will be just 900 metres away. The entire area has been ruined.”
VisitScotland has repeatedly said it is not against the principle of wind farm development.
In April it released a survey which concluded four out of five tourists visiting Scotland do not see wind farms as a problem.
However, last week it admitted that a ten-turbine development at Minnygap, Dumfries and Galloway, could hurt tourism.
In its submission to planning officials it said the “proposed development appears to be visible from the Southern Upland Way which is an important tourism attraction in the area.
“There have been a number of applications for wind farm developments along the route. Should all of these be granted there could be a cumulative detrimental effect on walkers.”
Councillors rejected the planning application for the wind farm on Thursday after concerns were raised about its impact on a Ministry of Defence seismic station.
Retired miner Andy Cochrane, 71, who also lives on the edge of the Southern Upland Way, said: “These monstrous turbines have made a complete mess of the place and I’m sure they’ll have harmed tourism.
“If you’re on a walking holiday the last thing you’ll want to see when you cross the brow of a hill is a huge wind farm. It’s bound to have an effect on visitor numbers.”
The Southern Upland Way, which traverses some of the most dramatic landscapes in Scotland, is popular with hikers, horse-riders and cyclists.
Almost half of the route is in Dumfries and Galloway, which already has the third highest number of wind farms in Scotland.
Another 1,000 turbines are under construction, have received planning consent or are going through the planning process.
A spokesman for VisitScotland said: “While it is not our role to object to wind farm applications, we do have a responsibility, on a case-by-case basis, to bring to the attention of developers the interests of the tourism industry and advise on sensitive siting where appropriate.
“This has been our position for some time. When asked as part of the formal planning process for any proposed wind farm development, VisitScotland will provide comment and has done so on a number of occasions.”