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VisitScotland say turbines have not damaged tourism – yet

Scotland’s lead tourism agency insisted yesterday that the proliferation of major windfarms across the country had not damaged the sector – but added there was no guarantee of that continuing in the future.

VisitScotland director Riddell Graham told Highland councillors, meeting in Inverness, that the Scottish Government agency was “closely monitoring” the situation.

Addressing the region’s planning committee amid growing concern about the cumulative effect of giant turbines being built in iconic areas of Scotland, he said: “From our own research that’s been carried out, there is no meaningful research that shows windfarms negatively impact on tourism.

“However, that’s not to say that might change in the future. What we’re doing is keeping a watching eye on windfarm development throughout the country.

“We’re working closely with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) because, as you know, the landscape is a key attracter and anything that is detrimental to that is clearly going to be an issue.”

Loch Ness Independent councillor Margaret Davidson said the recently published SNH “wild land map” indicating areas that should be deemed sacrosanct, had left her “blood boiling”.

“Loch Ness has been a real prime target (for developers). We need to look at cumulative impact. If we’re going to have more and more in this area we’re going to have some very upset communities,” she said.

“The cumulative effect of turbines around Loch Ness will have a detrimental impact on the landscape and I can imagine that the anti windfarm movement will grow in leaps and bounds over the next few years as people understand the impact of this policy.”

Senior Highland Council planner David Cowie urged colleagues to give more consideration to the effects of windfarm proposals.

He said: “Officers need to spend more time, frankly, considering the implications of understanding the methodology that has been followed by SNH in undertaking the mapping.

“Information has been published about that methodology on their website, but we need more time to absorb that and to come to a clear understanding.”

The council is to hold a workshop and has promised wider consultation on the issue in the near future.

Richard Crawford, leader of the recently formed Alliance Party of Scotland which is fundamentally opposed to windfarms, said: “There have been no meaningful ‘official’ surveys with regard to the impact of windfarms on tourism.

“However, we have been made aware of growing disquiet from overseas travellers who have stated that they will not come to Scotland if the relentless march of wind turbines continues.

“Currently, tourism is down. And, whilst this can be attributed to the economic downturn across Europe, it is equally possible that windfarms are having an impact.”