New report shows mountain wind farms pose ‘major risk’ to Scotland’s £600m visitor economy

David Gibson
David Gibson

For the first time, Mountaineering Scotland has quantified the impact wind farms located in mountain landscapes have on hill-walking visitor behaviour.

In a survey of members, over two thirds (67%) stated that they prefer ‘not to see wind farms when in the mountains’ and 22% said that they ‘avoided areas with wind farms’ when planning their activities.

Mountaineering Scotland has published a report into the impact wind farms have on the behaviour of mountaineers and hill walkers as part of the evidence base the organisation uses when opposing the small number of wind farm planning applications that it believes would cause irreparable damage to Scottish mountain landscapes if allowed to go ahead.

The organisation has also presented its new report to the public local inquiry into the proposed Whitelaw Brae wind farm in the Tweedsmuir Hills where Greenock-based 2020 Renewables wants to build a wind farm beside the largest area of high ground in south-east Scotland

West of the Tweed is a massive spread of turbines, none of which were objected to by Mountaineering Scotland, but the organisation regards the landscape east of the Tweed ‘as an important area of high ground that should be valued.’

More than 1,400 Mountaineering Scotland members, mostly hill-walkers, responded to a survey which sought their views on a range of subjects, including the organisation’s policy on protecting mountain landscapes from insensitive developments.

The 23% of members who avoid areas with wind farms or go less often compares with just 2% who said they were encouraged to visit the mountains more often because of wind farms.

Mountaineering Scotland Chief Executive, David Gibson, said: “This survey gives us some important evidence about the real impact wind farms in inappropriate mountain locations can have on the behaviour of hill walkers and potentially other mountain users – but the impact goes more widely than this.

“If hill walkers avoid visiting areas affected by wind development then local communities will lose the money hill walking visitors bring to shops, places to stay and other visitor-related businesses. A 20% reduction in hill walkers could easily make the difference between profit and loss for small enterprises in mountain areas across Scotland.

“Hill-walkers are likely to be particularly sensitive consumers of landscape. They are therefore a barometer in terms of identifying wider tourism impacts from wind farms. Mountain recreation is a significant tourism market in Scotland. Walking tourism was estimated to bring in £627 million to the Scottish economy in 2008 – more than all other nature-based tourism combined – and 15% of all tourism spend.”

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