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Call for tourism industry to enter windfarm debate

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) is calling on the tourism industry to help in the campaign to save scenic mountain areas from industrialisation by huge wind farms.

The MCofS wants to see a moratorium on further development in key mountain areas, particularly around the Munros and Corbetts which are the country’s highest peaks and amongst Scotland’s greatest visitor attractions.

David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, said: “The Scottish Government is billing 2013 as the Year of Natural Scotland, whilst at the same time allowing our wild, open and beautiful mountain landscapes to be industrialised with huge numbers of wind turbines and associated bulldozed tracks.

“This is completely at odds with the promotional stance of VisitScotland, which proudly declares on the travel trade section of its website that ‘your clients can escape into the unspoilt wilderness … taking in our majestic but accessible mountains’.

“Much of Scotland’s reputation as a fantastic place to visit is thanks to its remaining areas of dramatic scenery. Measures to protect the mountains must be put in place now if we are to continue to attract, not just those who enjoy outdoor activities but, all those in search of natural beauty and tranquillity.

“We are calling on travel trade businesses to contact MSPs, and the Scottish Government’s tourism agency VisitScotland, to help them understand that damaging our number one unique selling point, Scotland’s highland scenery, to the extent being proposed will undermine our tourism economy.

RenewableUK figures show that Scotland has 170 onshore wind farms operational or under construction. A massive 295 more are already consented or in planning, and if all are approved, could result in over 5,000 turbines supported with miles of service roads. More applications are being made every month, many for turbines that would have dwarfed Glasgow’s recently demolished Red Road flats which were once the tallest in Europe.

The MCofS is the representative organisation for Scotland’s mountaineers and hill walkers, with more than 11,000 members. It also acts for the 75,000 members of the British Mountaineering Council on matters related to the mountain landscape north of the border.

The recently published MCofS Manifesto on Onshore Wind Farms calls on the Scottish Government to engage with other organisations to develop a national spatial renewables policy. It is supported by the Munro Society, North East Mountain Trust, and Cairngorms Campaign.

Mr Gibson added: “We are not opposed to wind farms; however we are in favour of conserving our mountains. The Scottish Government could give real meaning to the 2013 Year of Natural Scotland by working with those who care about the environment to create a clear policy on what will be permitted and where.”

As a Scottish Government agency, VisitScotland has said previously that it was not able to lobby Government on the windfarm issue, although Chairman Mike Cantlay has hinted that VisitScotland might revisit this policy in the light of concerns raised by tourism businesses. The Tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing, also has ministerial responsibilities for Energy and Enterprise and therefore for developing and delivering Scottish energy policy including its current commitment to onshore windfarms.

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