They are the controversial contraptions that stand tall on the horizon – providing eco-friendly, renewable energy according to some, blotting the landscape according to others.
But a new survey has planted a foot firmly in the former camp – suggesting that wind farms are now in danger of destroying the beauty of some of the most striking portions of the Scottish countryside.
The poll, carried out by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, has found that climbers and walkers are being deterred from visiting the country’s rural areas because of the increasing encroachment of turbines into what were once wide-open spaces.
In results that will make worrying reading for the Scottish government, the survey found that over two thirds of people – 68 per cent – say that parts of Scotland are now less appealing to visitors thanks to the proliferation of wind farms.
A similar number – 67 per cent – say that wind farms are making Scotland a less appealing place in general.
Two thirds of those surveyed say they have been put off visiting Scotland by wind farms – and will not revisit places they have already visited where turbines now exist.
Over fourth fifths of respondents are insisting that there must be protection for National Parks and National Scenic Areas. And two-thirds of those questioned want to see buffer zones around areas of specific beauty, so that wind farms cannot be placed on their edges.
‘The survey results are a stark warning to the Scottish government,’ says David Gibson of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland. ‘Badly sited wind farms are a serious threat to Scotland’s reputation as a tourism destination.’
‘The more that are built in our mountains, the more visitors are put off.’
Scotland has taken a marked step towards the wide use of wind power in the last decade.
The Scottish government hopes to generate 100 per cent of Scotland’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 – with the majority of this power coming from wind farms.
Whitelee Wind Farm, which opened in East Renfrewshire in 2009, is the largest on-shore wind farm in the UK, with 215 turbines (and the second largest in Europe, behind only the Fântânele-Cogealac development in Romania).
Clyde Wind Farm, in South Lanarkshire, is another sizeable wind project, with 152 turbines.
The rising use of wind power is of concern to Mr Gibson.
‘Many of the wind farms planned for Scotland’s most remote and beautiful areas have yet to be built,’ he continues. ‘The evidence from this, and other, surveys, suggests that visitors dislike them more and more as they cease to be a novelty.’
The survey consulted 970 regular climbers and hikers who are members of either the Mountaineering Council of Scotland or the British Mountaineering Council.
Over three quarters of those surveyed – 77 per cent – live in Scotland.
Wind power is a consistently divisive topic.
A YouGov poll commissioned by the Sunday Times last October found a pretty even split on the question of whether the UK government is right – considering future energy needs – to invest money in the development of wind technology.
Fifty-one per cent of those questioned said that the government was right in this case.
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