A SCOTTISH photographer whose iconic images are being used to promote the Year of Natural Scotland tourism drive has criticised the SNP’s “Klondike” gold rush approach to green energy, which he warned was destroying the very landscape that the initiative aims to promote.
Colin Prior has spent decades capturing stunning photographs of the country’s most beautiful wilderness areas, including new photographs of the Cairngorms recently released by tourism agency VisitScotland in the run up to next year’s campaign.
But he warned that while he supports the Year of Natural Scotland (YNS) and the agency, he says the majority of Scottish vistas which he has pictured over the past 25 years are now blighted by wind farms thanks to a relentless renewables policy which risks ruining Scotland’s unique landscapes for future generations.
“I am definitely not criticising what VisitScotland is or isn’t doing this year for YNS, but over the years it has become obvious to me why people come and visit Scotland, and despite all the drum beating that goes on about what Scotland has to offer it’s what it doesn’t have that attracts them.
“Up until recently, Scotland’s landscapes were somewhere that one could escape the reach of development and commercialism. Empty glens and remote beaches, where, if you chose wisely, you could spend the day without meeting another person – how rare is that in most of Europe’s landscapes.
“I often meet people from France or Italy who live at close proximity to the Alps and who visit Scotland each year for one thing – peace and solitude.
“The ski lifts, mountain huts, signage, paths, and crowds are something they wish to avoid and they head for Scotland – a country which had an endless expanse of undisturbed places. No longer – the turbines have already changed the perception of Scotland to the outside world.
“Whilst I believe that it is crucial that we find alternative energy sources to fossil fuels… I am not convinced that covering Scotland with subsidised turbines is a price worth paying.”
Calling for a “common-sense” approach to choosing locations for wind farms, such as the successful development near Glasgow at Whitelee, Europe’s largest wind farm, he added: “I have a book coming out of 25 years of panoramas.
“Most of the pictures are the big mountain views and if I took them again now I would have to use Photoshop to take the wind farms out of them.
“I’m afraid that the Scottish Government has forsaken the landscape of Scotland for generations to come.”
However, the Scottish Government refuted the criticism, citing rising tourism numbers and a VisitScotland study showing that wind farms would not deter most people from visiting the country
A spokeswoman added: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that the renewable energy sector and the tourism industry continues to flourish side by side, in a sustainable manner.
“The Year of Natural Scotland will inspire our people and our visitors to celebrate Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty.”