The number of wild places where scenic views have been blighted by wind farms has almost doubled in two years, figures show.
Statistics compiled by the Scottish Government’s own nature watchdog highlight the relentless march of turbines across the country.
In 2010, wind developments were visible from 35.6 per cent of the country, compared with only 19.9 per cent in 2008, according to Scottish Natural Heritage.
The agency’s researchers also found that 70 per cent of all Scotland’s views in 2010 took in some form of man-made structure, which included everything from bridges to roads, railways to airfields, and quarries to pylons – a rise of 5 per cent from 2008.
SNH, which advises Scottish ministers on nature a nd landscape, blamed that increase almost entirely on the huge recent surge in wind farms, backed by the SNP’s renewables energy policy.
Yesterday, Ian Jardine, SNH chief executive, said: ‘The purpose of this report is to reveal the changes affecting Scotland’s landscape as a result of built development. This is perhaps unsurprising given the importance of the renewable energy sector in Scotland.’
The report states: ‘Human activity, in the form of land use and built development, has a major influence on landscape character.’
It adds that ‘tall structures without turbines’ could be seen from 46.3 per cent of the country, a figure which remained unchanged between 2008 and 2010, while all other structures ‘showed either no change or a change of less than 1 per cent’.
Simon Brooks, SNH policy advice manager, said: ‘Wind turbines are the driver for the significant change in terms of areas that previously weren’t seeing any forms of built development.’
An SNH source said: ‘We are currently working on more recent data which should be available from November this year which will take in wind farm developments that have been built since 2010. That could show yet another increase.’
This month, Scottish ministers put in place the first planning proposals specifically designed to protect wilderness areas.
The draft planning policies, which are at present out to public consultation until July 23, would for the first time ban wind farms from land within a national park or with scenic area status – almost 20 per cent of the country.
But pressure for new turbines remains strong following First Minister Alex Salmond’s pledge to produce 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020.
Ann West, of campaign group Country Guardian, which has been fighting wind farm developments in Britain since 1991, said: ‘Scotland has a real problem now, there are so few places you can go in the countryside and not see a turbine.
‘We are desperate to protect the country, but Scotland seems to be leading the way in being totally careless with the landscape.
‘We want to see the amount of wind turbine developments reversed, and we have a lot of support. We have thousands of people attending meetings all over the UK.
‘The destruction of wild and beautiful landscape is a huge problem. The countryside relies on tourism, and wind farms are putting tourists off.
‘This costs local people money, but they have no benefits from the turbines. There is no excuse for destroying the natural landscape.’