The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) wants a moratorium on further development in key areas, particularly around the Munros and Corbetts which are the country’s highest peaks, and which are among Scotland’s greatest visitor attractions.
David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, said: “Scotland’s wild and beautiful mountains are famous worldwide and are one of the main reasons people love to visit our country. But right now they face the threat of industrialisation from large numbers of huge wind farms. And it’s not just the turbines, many of which are over 120 metres tall, but endless kilometres of wide, bulldozed service tracks and enormous electricity pylons.
“The Scottish Government is billing 2013 as the Year of Natural Scotland, but this will be nothing more than an empty slogan if our best and most dramatic scenery is spoiled. The good news is that it is not too late to act and we believe that if the world’s travel industry calls on the Scottish Government to protect the best of our mountain landscapes then it will listen.
“Our national tourism body, VisitScotland, proudly declares on the travel trade section of its website that ‘your clients can escape into the unspoilt wilderness … taking in our majestic but accessible mountains’. If wind farms are allowed in the wrong places then Scotland’s wilderness will be ruined, which will be a great loss not just to hikers and others who enjoy outdoor activities, but all those in search of natural beauty and tranquillity.”
RenewableUK figures show that Scotland has 160 onshore wind farms operational or under construction. Some 300 more are consented or in planning, and could result in over 5,000 turbines and their service roads – often in the mountains. More applications are made every month.
The MCofS is the representative organisation for Scotland’s mountaineers and hill walkers, with more than 11,000 members. It also acts for the 75,000 members of the British Mountaineering Council on matters related to the mountain landscape north of the border.
The recently-published MCofS manifesto calls on the Scottish Government to engage with other organisations to develop a national spatial renewables policy to make Scotland a leader in harmonising clean energy generation with landscape protection. It is supported by the Munro Society, the North East Mountain Trust, and the Cairngorms Campaign.
Mr Gibson added: “We are not opposed to wind farms; but we are in favour of conserving our mountains. The Scottish Government could give real meaning to the 2013 Year of Natural Scotland by working with those who care about the environment to create a clear policy on what will be permitted and where.”