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Tourism blown off course by turbines

Five studies on the impact of wind turbines on tourism have all reached the same conclusion – tourists are being diverted away from the region.

Each of the studies gives a clear indication that tourism spend will be redistributed, or reallocated, away from areas with higher than average numbers of turbines, such as the Scottish Borders. In turn, employment opportunities in tourism – the second biggest industry in the Scottish Borders – are expected to suffer.

In contrast just over 2,300 jobs across Scotland have been created by the onshore wind industry.

The conclusions about tourism spend are drawn from two university studies (the first commissioned by the Scottish Government; the second, a submission to the Scottish Parliament’s 2012 Renewables Inquiry); a private sector survey in 2012; VisitScotland’s own 2002 research; and a recent poll conducted for Scottish Renewables.

Both university studies claim regions with more wind turbines will lose out to regions with fewer turbines. The net impact on tourism in Scotland as a whole is unlikely to change, but it is the regional situation that matters to the Borders’ economy.

The results of a poll commissioned by the energy industry’s own association, Scottish Renewables’, conducted via yougov amongst Scottish residents in February 2013, revealed that 26 per cent of people responding said that their decision to visit an area would be affected by the presence of a windfarm.

Borders Network, who represent various groups across the region that have become more and more concerned about the impact of wind farms on the local tourism industry, claim that these figures predict a fall in ‘Scottish’ tourist revenues of more than a quarter in those areas of the Borders where windfarms already exist.

Borders Network spokesman Mark Rowley, from Longformacus, said: “Borderers are by no means as stupid as some politicians seem to think. We are fed up seeing our unspoilt landscape – our most priceless visitor attraction – being trashed through the Scottish Government’s deeply flawed approach to renewables which simply sees the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the wealthy – usually foreign – developers.

“Borders windfarms already produce nine times as much electricity as is needed by our homes. So, we have done our bit for climate change and the low carbon economy. Now we need to conserve – and enhance – what’s left of our biggest asset, our landscape. We need to ensure that our visitor spend – most of which stays in the Borders economy unlike windfarm profits – continues to grow.”