THE expansion of wind farms in Scotland’s mountain areas is damaging the country’s tourism sector, according to climbers and hill walkers.
More than two-thirds surveyed said parts of Scotland are now “less appealing” because of wind farms developments, according to the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS).
Ministers have heavily promoted renewable energy, such as offshore wind, and have set ambitious targets to generate the bulk of Scotland’s electricity from wind and wave power.
The Scottish Government last year unveiled proposals to designate about 28 per cent of the country’s landscape as wild land and make it more difficult to secure permission for wind farms.
However, the MCofS called on the government to protect all wild land, beauty spots and parks from the thousands of wind farms that are now installed.
The group’s survey of 1,000 walkers and climbers found that two thirds had “been put off by wind farms from visiting or revisiting” places in Scotland they had previously been to because of the presence of wind farms.
Holyrood today debates planning guidelines for developers in the countryside.
David Gibson, MCofS chief officer, said the growth in wind farms was “deeply disturbing” as he warned that the surge in the number of developments represented a threat to Scotland’s £1.6 billion natural heritage tourism sector.
He said: “The survey results are a stark warning to the Scottish Government – badly sited wind farms are a serious threat to Scotland’s reputation as a tourism destination.
“The more that are built in our mountains, the more visitors are put off.
“Natural heritage tourism is worth £1.6bn to the Scottish economy and tourism organisations have consistently emphasised the importance of nurturing these kinds of visitors. One of the main ways of doing this is to ensure that Scotland is seen as offering an ‘authentic’ experience.
“It is deeply disturbing that the renewables lobby is using all its influence to push the Scottish Government into abandoning proposals that would give some protection to one of Scotland’s greatest natural assets.”
However, SNP MSP John Wilson defended the government’s stance on wind farms and suggested that the findings in the report represented a small number of people.
He said: “While this survey may appear significant, it is a select audience of individuals.
“The Scottish Government strategy to promote wind farms as part of a renewable energy mix means that we are less dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power.”
More than 2,000 wind farms have been confirmed as currently in use, figures previously published by the Scottish Conservatives showed.