Forestry Commission figures show more than five million trees have been felled thanks to wind farm developments since 2007, with fewer than 1.6 million planted to replace them.
Millions of trees have been chopped down to clear the way for wind farms in Scotland’s countryside since Alex Salmond came to power, according to official figures published today.
The Forestry Commission has disclosed that more than 6,200 acres (2,510 hectares) of trees north of the Border have been felled to allow the construction of wind farms since 2007.
With the commission estimating that on average 810 trees are planted per acre, this is the equivalent of more than five million being chopped down.
Over the same period, fewer than 2,000 acres of trees have been replanted within wind farm sites. This means there has been net loss of around 3.4 million trees to make way for turbines.
The cull has been implemented despite the Scottish Government previously insisting it expected energy companies to undertake “compensatory replanting” when trees are destroyed in this way.
The Scottish Conservatives, who obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, said they demonstrated the “wanton destruction” Mr Salmond’s green energy targets are inflicting on the countryside.
The SNP administration has set a target of generating the equivalent of all Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, with the majority expected to come from onshore wind.
This has prompted a rapid spread of turbines across rural Scotland, with research published last year finding there were almost as many turbines north of the Border as in all the rest of the UK.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed how Scottish Government officials were exerting unprecedented pressure on planning authorities to allow more wind farms even in the face of fierce local opposition.
Murdo Fraser MSP, the Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “The SNP is so blindly obsessed with renewable energy that it doesn’t mind destroying another important environmental attribute to make way for it.
“It’s quite astonishing to see almost as many trees have been destroyed as there are people in Scotland. The contribution of trees to our environment has been well established through the ages.
“I’m still waiting to see compelling evidence of the contribution wind farms make. If the Scottish Government cooled its ludicrous renewable energy targets, we wouldn’t see this kind of wanton destruction and intrusion on our landscape.”
Of the 6,202 acres of trees felled on Scotland’s national forest estate since 2007 to make way for wind farms, the figures said 1,957 acres (31.5 per cent) have been replanted.
A further 3,467 acres (56 per cent) had deliberately been “left open for environmental management”, while the remaining 778 acres (12.5 per cent) had not been replanted despite not being designated to be left open.
The Scottish Government said the Tories claims “misrepresent the full picture” as only the 778 acres were suitable for the planting of another rotation of trees.
Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Environment Minister, said: “To put it in real context, in the same six year period, Forestry Commission Scotland has supported over 31,400 hectares of new planting – that’s a staggering 62 million trees in the ground across Scotland.
“Scotland is also shouldering the vast majority of tree planting in Britain with nearly two and a half times more tree planting in Scotland compared to south of the Border.”
He said planning guidance had been tightened up to ensure tree felling is kept to a minimum and replanting undertaken “where suitable”.
Meanwhile, figures compiled by anti-wind farm campaigners suggest the number of turbines in the Scottish Borders is likely to increase beyond 600 in 2014.
Mark Rowley, chairman of Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus community council, has calculated there are 441 large-scale turbines in the area already constructed or given planning permission. This includes 373 in Berwickshire.
Planning applications for a further 185 have been submitted, while 47 were at the appeal stage of the process. In addition, wind farm companies are scoping and screening sites with the potential for a further 400 turbines.
Scottish Government officials have rejected complaints from individual councils that they should be able to declare a moratorium on building more wind farms because they have “done their share”.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding