A key outdoors author and broadcaster has joined opponents of a major windfarm development planned for the Scottish Highlands in calling for its rejection.
Cameron McNeish said, with the Year of Natural Scotland just days away, granting permission for the Allt Duine turbines would be hypocritical.
Mr McNeish, former editor of TGO magazine, joined the Save the Monadhliath Mountains campaign in pointing out the irony of Visit Scotland’s campaign to attract more tourists coinciding with the building of 31 wind turbines just yards from the Cairngorms national park.
SMM said: “The Year of Natural Scotland is a campaign which has been devised by Visit Scotland as a means of promoting the country’s famous scenery and national heritage.”
It said 2013 will be a year-long celebration of all that the great Scottish outdoors has to offer, but – with a Government decision on the 31 turbine wind farm proposal to be built on the very edge of the Cairngorms National Park due in the same year – campaigning groups are questioning where Natural Scotland really sits on the Government’s list of priorities.
“The objective of the Year of Natural Scotland is to recognise Scotland’s scenery and heritage as fundamental to its reputation, so it appears contradictory that an area chosen by campaigners to represent these qualities is under threat,” the campaigners said.
“As part of the event’s programme, world-acclaimed landscape photographer Colin Prior visited the area this year and said: ‘Scotland has an inspirational quality in the landscape’.”
SMM said that, in June this year Scottish Ministers signed up to the Cairngorms national park partnership plan for the years up to 2017.
The group said: “In the foreword to the plan, Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, clearly stated the Government’s commitment to ‘ensuring that the park’s stunning landscapes and special qualities are conserved and enhanced for future generations’.
“Should the Allt Duine windfarm go ahead, this decision will not only severely impact on the setting and fabric of the park, but work against the Year of Natural Scotland and the plan’s objectives too.
The Allt Duine scheme represents one of 11 windfarms that either already exists or is at the application stage on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park area.
Campaigners from Save the Monadhliath Mountains – a broad-based coalition with the objective of protecting the Monadhliath Mountains and national park – are concerned about the cumulative effect the turbines will have, as well as the potential damage that may occur to the area’s wildlife and visual amenity, which, in time, will impact on the tourist appeal.
The Save the Monadhliath Mountains campaigners are urging Fergus Ewing, the minister for both the national energy and tourism portfolios, to take full account of the importance of renewable energy targets, the legislation in place to safeguard national parks and what ministers have signed up to when considering RWE Npower Renewables’ Allt Duine application.
Cameron McNeish said: “There is a very fine balance to be struck between nature and renewable energy targets, although, in the case of Allt Duine, granting permission would be a step too far.
“It is ironic that the Government, through Visit Scotland, is championing a campaign to conserve and promote Scotland’s natural beauty, while considering the possibility of granting permission for 31 giant turbines a few hundred metres from the boundary of a national park.
“We need to establish what is more important for the country.
“In my view, it would be entirely hypocritical to grant permission for Allt Duine. I call on Fergus Ewing to urgently reconcile the two parts of his portfolio – energy and tourism – in this case and refuse permission. He has plenty of good reasons for doing so.”
The Allt Duine development is opposed by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Highland Council, in addition to the John Muir Trust, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society and the Glenfeshie, Kinrara and Pitmain estates. Scottish Natural Heritage has expressed considerable concerns, SMM said.