The writer of a hit historical television drama has condemned as ‘insane’ a plan to build a windfarm at a wild Scottish moor used as a location for the series.
Outlander author Diana Gabaldon said the landscape value of Rannoch Moor should not be sacrificed for the small amount of power the proposed turbines would provide.
VisitScotland has features the moor on a map of key locations tourists can search out as locations for the television episodes.
Opponents of the Talladh a Bheithe wind farm, near Loch Rannoch, have challenged the tourism body to speak out against the plans, which have been submitted by Netherlands-based developer, Eventus.
Ms Gabaldon said: “One of the most gratifying things about the TV show is that we were able to film it in Scotland, and that the staggering natural beauty of Scotland is as much a character as are any of the actors.
“I’ve heard from hundreds of fans that seeing the show has convinced them that they must go to Scotland, and from hundreds more who have already come to experience it for themselves.
“Frankly, given the undoubted economic value of tourism to Scotland, it seems insane to sacrifice one of its most scenic landscapes for the sake of an electrical pittance.”
The Scottish Government said there had been a surge in visitors since the showing of the Outlander series. The series has been shown in the US, Canada and Australia since August last year and recently became available to viewers in the UK on Amazon Prime. It will be shown in Germany from May.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, said: “We hope that visitor numbers increase further as viewers in the UK and Germany get to enjoy the programme.
“Outlander is just the latest example of Scotland’s starring role in film and screen, with notable recent successes including World War Z, Under the Skin and The Railway Man.
“We have wonderful modern and historic cities, stunning scenery and talented artists and professionals.”
Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Outlander has a massive fan base, particularly in North America, and TV audiences have been captivated by the show’s blend of stunning Scottish scenery, its romance and its history.
“Scotland is the land that inspired Outlander and our locations map has already proved a big hit with visitors with many making the journey to stunning locations within the series such as Doune Castle. Furthermore, we are seeing more and more tourism businesses, including accommodation providers and visitor attractions, looking at ways in which they can capitalise on the show.”
David Gibson, Mountaineering Council of Scotland chief officer, said: “The visitor appeal of Rannoch Moor will be ruined if this industrial-scale windfarm goes ahead.
“VisitScotland must speak out. It is bizarre that VisitScotland and the Scottish Government keep calling for tourists to enjoy our wild and unspoilt lands while policies are pursued that could turn them into industrial sites.
“We are calling on the Scottish Government to completely rule out large scale wind farms in the wild and natural areas which are essential to Scottish tourism. That means new planning controls which clearly prohibit such developments in all wild land areas, not just national parks and national scenic areas.
“It is brilliant that Outlander is having such a valuable effect on tourism and shows that we should be using our wild lands and mountain spaces to develop sustainable tourism, not as a source of vast profits for multi-national power companies and big land owners.”
Opponents of the scheme said the development would affect views from more than 30 munros and corbetts, including Schiehallion, the Ben Alder massif, mountains above Glen Lyon, the Drumochter Hills and Buachaille Etive Mor.
The turbines would also be visible from the West Highland Railway line and the A82 – the main tourist route through the West Highlands, they said.
The proposal is wholly within one of Scottish Natural Heritage’s wild land areas and is the first Section 36 application for a development in a wild land area since the adoption by the Scottish Government last year of new planning policy guidelines.
The guidance says: “We also want to continue our strong protection for our wildest landscapes – wild land is a nationally important asset.” Approval would fatally undermine this recent commitment by the Scottish Government to protect Scotland’s wildest land the windfarm opponents said.
Among the organisations opposing the windfarm scheme is the John Muir Trust, which has described it as ‘a knife in the heart of Scotland’s natural beauty’ and Scottish Natural Heritage, which has criticised its likely effects on rare birds and mammals, estimating that the turbines will kill one golden eagle every 19 months.
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