August 4, 2013
Opinions, Scotland

My darling Tom would be so sad. The land he loved is scarred by wind turbines. I must fight in his name

By Rhona Weir | The Scottish Mail on Sunday | 4 August 2013 |

All my adult life, I have loved Scotland. It has a unique, varied and very beautiful environment that is free for all to appreciate and enjoy. We have inherited an irreplaceable legacy and that is why we must fight for it to remain as unblemished and magnificent for generations to come.

My late husband, Tom Weir, would have been appalled at the present proliferation of wind turbines defacing the land he also loved.

He died six years ago, before wind turbines became an issue, but he was a great environmentalist and a fighter and that is why I am carrying on that legacy and opposing the construction of these monstrosities across our wonderful landscape.

The whole idea of them is an affront to me. In Germany, they find a place that’s not too beautiful and put the wind turbines there, which is a much more sensible solution. Why is that not something our Government can stipulate rather than allowing our hills, glens and shores to be increasingly blighted for wind power?

When I see these wind farms, particularly in a place I remember as being unspoilt and untouched, it breaks my heart to see dozens of turbines peppered across it. It is like damaging a lovely painting.

We all need electricity but surely, in a country renowned for its engineering skills, alternative means of production could be developed. We don’t lack water, so we should be making better use of our rivers and lochs. Could we not harness river power and hydro schemes constructed in suitable locations?

As it is, we as citizens are footing unacceptable rises in our electricity bills for power emanating from a source that is intrusive, spasmodic (and therefore unreliable), inefficient and requiring back-up in adverse weather conditions.

New access roads to these once remote locations are leaving their scars for everyone to see. The machinery is noisy, with a limited life-span and without obvious means of eventual annihilation as they are constructed on large concrete surfaces.

The wind farms cause damage to the earth’s sub-structure, as well as being costly to build and operate. The turbines themselves are made abroad, so they don’t even generate jobs here.

The only people who appear to benefit from this are the landowners, who are making money out of wind farms by selling off Scotland.

I came to Glasgow in my early teens, having been born in Scotland but brought up in Cornwall, where my father worked. I had a fantastic teacher, who was president of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club, and she changed my life forever in the 1930s when she took me to the hills around Glencoe for a trip one day.

I thought it was wonderful. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Later, I joined the climbing club and that is how I met my husband Tom – out in Glencoe with his friends. It was terrible weather and I got very wet. This lovely man asked me if I’d like to borrow a spare pair of trousers because we were about the same height. He said his name was Tom Weir.

I had the trousers cleaned afterwards, handed them back and he asked me out. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tom’s enthusiasm was very infectious. He was a great man and I feel Tom is with me on this issue of wind farms and that he would have appreciated what I am doing to stop their march across our land.

I feel strongly that any unnecessary development which will have a detrimental effect on this heritage of ours should be considered an act of vandalism.

In a country now short of productive industry, the pecuniary importance of tourism should not be understated, especially as it is the mainstay of the economy in rural Scotland and the islands.

WIND turbines, however, are already having an impact on tourism, as indicated by the 40 per cent of those questioned in a recent survey who said they would not return if the landscape continued to be industrialised by wind turbines.

This attitude is endorsed by many of the 4,500 potential visitors, many from overseas, who signed the petition I handed over to Alex Salmond at Bute House four months ago.

They live in 45 different countries and felt compelled to sign after hearing me talking about wind farms on the radio some weeks before. Their names and comments were compiled into a book, in partnership with the Stop Highland Windfarms Campaign, which I presented to the First Minister. I have to confess I loved his brown eyes but, in typical politician fashion, he appeared to listen to me talking for the best part of an hour yet promised nothing.

I told him that every signature in the book was a potential visitor to our country and we should encourage tourism as much as possible. I really do hope I made a difference.

At my age, 93, one might be expected to be reluctant to get involved in any political protests but you are as young as you feel and I still walk three to six miles every week when I can, including a large part of the West Highland Way. I am not a political animal but, as someone who loves the land as much as I do and that feeling of freedom, having your feet on the ground and your boots on, I felt as if I would be a hypocrite to stand by and do nothing to try to change this damaging policy on wind farms.

In an ideal world, I would like to see a halt now – not just to those wind farm projects on the land but to those also ruining the vista from Scotland’s shores. I can’t say I am a big fan of American billionaire Donald Trump and his golf course development in Aberdeenshire, but I do have some sympathy for his fight to prevent the construction of large turbines off the coastline, which he claims will affect his business.

Also not to be ignored is the call by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park planners for research into the effect turbines are having on tourism.

I didn’t tell Alex Salmond when I met him, but the day after our meeting I was having a big operation and spent weeks recuperating. I probably should not have gone but I felt so passionate about being the ‘great-grandmother’ of the wind turbine campaign that I knew it was something I had to do.

I rest my case – but will never rest my efforts to save the country I love from this needless blight. My message today, for the sake of our children’s children, is: ‘Before it is too late, please find other ways of making power.’

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