A protest group has started a petition against what some have dubbed the “real Loch Ness Monsters” – the 500 turbines which could pepper the hills around the iconic waters.
Fears that Scotland’s most famous views could soon be home to a multitude of big windfarms have prompted campaigners to demand a Scottish Government moratorium on developments around the loch and the Great Glen.
The Friends of the Great Glen group has warned SNP ministers that failure to deal with the accumulation of masts circling the 23-mile stretch of water could wreck the region’s economy by driving visitors away.
UniqueNess, which represents more than 400 local businesses, estimates that the area is a magnet for more than a million visitors each year.
A total of 527 huge turbines are now built, approved or in the planning process within a 22-mile radius of the loch.
The campaigners online petition runs until April 23 and urges the Scottish Government “to protect Loch Ness and the Great Glen by designating it a national scenic area”.
It also recommends the submission of a priority application for World Heritage status and a ban on further windfarms in the area.
Fort William-based biologist and group spokesman, James Treasurer, said: “Certain parts of the Highlands should be off-limits.
“It’s the cumulative effect. The visual impact is going to be enormous. If all these developments happen, you won’t be able to visit any hill in the Great Glen without seeing wind turbines.”
Kiltarlity-based Lyndsey Ward, a leading anti-windfarm campaigner, backed the petition and said: “The sheer scale of proposed development around one of Scotland’s greatest assets defies belief.
“The 500-plus turbines – the real Loch Ness Monsters – will be connected with the visual pollutant of more pylons, substations and transmission lines criss-crossing our skyline.”
Gerry Worth, who owns Redburn Cafe and Gifts at Glenmoriston, said: “The worry is that people are becoming complacent.
“Because so many turbines are in the pipeline, people are just seeing what’s there and not what’s to come.
“My concern is the effects on tourism. You can’t have much more of an iconic area than Loch Ness and, driving around or in the hills above Loch Ness, you’re going to see turbines.”
Prominent hillwalker and broadcaster Cameron McNeish said: “I’m trying very hard to persuade Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing to have a ban on turbines on wild land.
“My only hope – and this is something I got from him – is that after the next election we may find that the subsidies have run out.
“We have to try hard to get the balance right between protecting our finest landscapes and considering the consequences of global warming and what we can do to redress that.
“It’s a difficult challenge, but for me the protection of our wild land is utmost.”
Graham Lang, chairman of Scotland Against Spin, an alliance of groups pressing for reform of wind energy policy, said: “It is beyond belief that a supposedly green and nationalist government colludes with voracious multinationals to ravage our most iconic landscapes, but that is what we are seeing in the Great Glen. Doubtless, thousands of people will sign the petition.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “Our policy on onshore windfarms aims to strike a careful balance between utilising Scotland’s significant renewable energy resources whilst protecting our finest scenic landscapes and natural heritage.
“The planning process strongly promotes public engagement which enables community organisations to make representations on development proposals.
“We remain firmly supportive of onshore and offshore renewable energy technologies, including windfarms, so long as these are developed in appropriate locations.”
The online petition is at http://www.savelochness.com/main.html.