There was fury yesterday as an energy company accused of “destroying” tourism was named as sponsor of the prestigious Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.
Outraged protesters called it “bizarre” that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), the company behind the Beauly to Denny power line and numerous windfarms throughout the Highlands, should align itself with tourism.
The power company has plans to instal mo re than 100 turbines on hills overlooking Loch Ness. Awards chairwoman Marina Huggentt said the sponsorship reinforces the positive relationship between energy and tourism.
And Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy and Tourism, said the renewable energy sect o r and the tourist industry will “continue to flourish side by side”.
Furious broadcaster and mountaineer Cameron McNeish said: “This is obviously an attempt by the company to align themselves with Scottish tourism and give the impression they are helping tourism when in actual fact they are not. They are actually destroying it.
“That SSE, who are doing so much to destroy much of what people come to Scotland to see, should be sponsoring the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards seems quite ironic to me.
“SSE are building the Beauly to Denny power line with its industrial pylons. They have got bulldozer tracks all over the place along the A9 and they are building a huge track across the Monaliadh Mountains.
“So many people say to me they won’t come back to Scotland because it is covered in pylons and wind turbines.”
SSE’s managing director of renewables, Jim Smith said: “The Highlands and islands are famed for outstanding beauty and great hospitality and, through our sponsorship of the awards, we are proud to help recognise the businesses and individuals that make the most of these natural assets.
“The region’s other great natural asset is its potential for renewable energy and SSE has been working with communities in the Highlands and islands for generations to build sensitively developments that deliver real benefit to the local economy.
“There need be no conflict between tourism and well-sited and well managed renewable projects.”
A spokesman for conservation charity the John Muir Trust said: “Of all the energy companies, SSE have had an especially cavalier approach to using Scotland’s magnificent landscapes. They have been prepared to routinely exploit them in pursuit of profit.
“Two of the windfarms they are seeking permission for at the moment, Stronelairg at Loch Ness and Viking at Shetland, will cover an area larger than the city of Aberdeen. That is the landscape that brings tourists to Scotland. It seems pretty bizarre that this company should be sponsoring tourism awards.”
The awards will be made at the Drumossie Hotel, Inverness on October 4.
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