A new survey of nearly 1,000 climbers and hill walkers, carried out by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, revealed that 68% say parts of Scotland are now less appealing because of wind farms.
Around two thirds have already been put off by wind farms from visiting or revisiting places in Scotland they had visited before.
Over four-fifths of respondents said there must be protection for National Parks, National Scenic Areas and Core Areas of wild land. Two-thirds want buffer zones so developers cannot spoil these special areas by placing industrial-scale wind farms around their perimeters.
And 67% say wind farms are making Scotland as a whole a less appealing place to visit.
David Gibson, Chief Officer of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS), said: “These 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.
“Many of the wind farms planned for Scotland’s most remote and beautiful areas have yet been built and the evidence from this, and other surveys, suggests that visitors dislike them more and more as they cease to be a novelty.
“We have written to Energy, Enterprise and Tourism minister Fergus Ewing, who holds the brief both for the approval of large scale renewable energy developments and for tourism, asking for a meeting to discuss the urgent need to protect Scotland’s rapidly diminishing wild, open mountain landscapes.
“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.”
The need to protect Scotland’s reputation among hill walkers and climbers was emphasised by the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) – sister organisation of MCofS – which represents climbers and hill walkers in England and Wales.
Dave Turnbull, BMC Chief Executive, said: “The ‘away from it all’ feel of the Scottish mountains is one of their biggest attractions to walkers and climbers from south of the border. People will naturally vote with their feet and start avoiding areas with intrusive wind farm developments.”
And John Mackenzie, The Earl of Cromartie, who runs a tourism business at Castle Leod, in Strathpeffer – and who is current president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and a former MCofS president – added:
“Natural heritage tourism is worth £1.6 billion to Scotland and the attraction of Scotland for the climbers and hill walkers who live here, and for the many who visit from the rest of the UK and overseas, is that it offers the chance to escape into wild and beautiful mountains that are both accessible and of world class status despite their relatively small size.
“It is this small scale of landscape that therefore makes industrial turbines so out of scale and thus visually intrusive.
“The main cause of objection to this out-of-scale industrialisation is where it is placed and the effect it has on our landscape. The Scottish Government should seriously consider a buffer zone and be stringent where turbines are proposed in designated landscape areas.”