THERE IS “no evidence” to support claims by American tycoon Donald Trump that wind turbines would destroy Scottish tourism, MSPs have concluded.
Members of Holyrood’s economy committee said that, while “anecdotal opinion exists”, claims that the tourism industry would be hit did not stack up.
Mr Trump appeared before the committee earlier this year to outline the case against wind farms. Calling himself a “world-class expert on tourism”, he told MSPs “horrible” giant turbines would do “tremendous damage” to the industry in Scotland. He is locked in a battle against a proposed offshore wind farm near his golf course in Aberdeenshire.
In a report on the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets, MSPs said: “While some strongly held, localised and anecdotal opinion exists, the committee has seen no empirical evidence which demonstrates that the tourism industry in Scotland will be adversely affected by the wider deployment of renewable energy projects, particularly onshore and offshore wind.”
But the findings prompted an angry response from the Trump Organisation, which branded wind farms a “failure” and said that could not be “whitewashed” by the committee.
The company said: “The report, with findings like these, does not inspire confidence – it fails entirely to address the costs to the public and the impact on tourism, communities and the lives of ordinary people.
“This government cannot be trusted; they will say and do anything, including lie, to support their political goals.
“The Scottish economy is condemned to suffer a downward spiral if this thinking continues. Global investors be warned.”
At Holyrood in April, Mr Trump was asked for facts to back up his belief that wind farms would have a negative impact on tourism. “I am the evidence,” he said. “I am an expert in tourism. I am considered a world-class expert in tourism, so when you say, ‘Where is the evidence?’, I am the evidence.”
In its report, the committee endorsed renewables projects such as the proposed European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen Bay, which would be built near Mr Trump’s Menie Estate golf resort.
“Such demonstration centres are, in our view, a vital component in Scotland’s industrial infrastructure,” the report said.
However, the committee did recommend that VisitScotland and the Scottish Government continue to gather evidence from tourists coming to this country, given the industry’s importance to Scotland.
The aim of the committee’s inquiry was to look at the government’s flagship energy target of generating the equivalent of all the country’s electricity needs from green energy sources, such as wind, wave and hydro power by 2020. It found this was achievable, but said skills shortages presented a real risk and more investment was needed in science, technology, engineering and maths at school, college and university level.
Committee vice-convener Dennis Robertson said: “The committee was concerned to hear a number of witnesses question the achievability of the targets due to skill shortages. More work needs to be done to address our relatively low take-up of subjects like engineering, maths and science.”
There are also concerns that “significant” investment is required in planning. Councils are being swamped by applications, with MSPs backing higher fees for large-scale projects to keep the situation under control.
The report said infrastructure presented “challenges”, with islands at a disadvantage due to higher transmission charges. There is also a risk that a government heat target may not be met by 2020 because of delays to incentives, controversy around biomass plants and “hurdles” linked to district heating schemes, the report added.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing said the study underlined that the target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewables, such as wind turbines, wave and tidal energy, as well as hydro power, could be achieved.
“The positive tone of this report reflects the widespread belief across the industry, the government and its agencies and key stakeholders that renewable energy can deliver huge benefits for Scotland’s people,” he said.
Jenny Hogan, of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “This has been one of the most detailed and debated committee inquiries in the Scottish Parliament’s history and it has confirmed what we have said for some time: that the ambitious targets for the renewables industry are achievable.”