Ramblers group backs energy firms boycott

ENERGY customers are to be urged to boycott two electricity giants in protest at the controversial Beauly-Denny powerline and the growing number of wind farms across the country.

Ramblers Scotland plans to launch a campaign to encourage consumers to switch contracts away from Scottish- Power and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).

The organisation, which has 7,000 members in Scotland, is also urging other environmental bodies, including the National Trust for Scotland and the John Muir Trust, to join the campaign.

The move follows news that SSE is to increase electricity bills by an average of 11 per cent from September. ScottishPower has also announced increases in fuel bills of almost 20 per cent.

Both companies are behind the project to build the 137-mile Beauly-Denny powerline to take renewable energy from the Highlands to the Central Belt. It was announced last month that the cost of the project has risen from 323 million to nearer 600m.

The project, which aims to replace the existing 132kV line with a 400kV overhead line, was approved by energy minister Jim Mather last year despite widespread opposition from environmental campaigners. It followed a lengthy public inquiry in 2007.

Ramblers Scotland was one of the groups calling for a sub-sea cable, or improvements to the existing east coast powerline, rather than an upgrade of the Beauly-Denny system.

It has also raised concerns about the proliferation of wind turbines being built in wild places, arguing that visitors may stop coming to Scotland because of the "industrialisation" of the landscape.

Dave Thomson, vice convener of Ramblers Scotland and vice chair of the UK body, said: "As a rambler and country lover I am concerned about the effect of these wind turbines which are going up all over Scotland. We are going to lose our wild country if we're not careful.

"I've walked all my life in the Ochils. Now when you go up there you can't see anything but windmills and they are going to go further and further north."

He said there is also growing concern about the rising cost of the Beauly-Denny line: "It started at just over 300m and it's twice that now. We intend to speak to groups like the NTS and JMT to come on board. If we all just sit back and say 'Well, it's not really bothering me' we will all regret it in the long run."

A ScottishPower spokesman said: "Scotland is blessed with a wide range of renewable resources including hydro, wave, tidal and wind. The development of these projects, together with investments in the electricity network, will help to keep the lights on while reducing our exposure to volatile wholesale prices."

SSE declined to comment.

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