Green energy companies gathering for a major exhibition and conference in Glasgow are being asked for their support in protecting Scotland's mountains.
In the absence of political leadership from Scottish Ministers, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) is calling for energy companies that care about the environment to collaborate on plans to protect the most sensitive and precious mountain areas from unsuitable wind farm developments.
Letters have gone out to many companies attending RenewableUK 2012 (at the SECC from 30 October to 1 November), inviting them to discuss how to harmonise clean energy production with the preservation of Scotland’s natural heritage.
David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, said: “We believe that Scotland could be a pioneer of green energy good practice as well as power generation, but despite this opportunity the Scottish Government is demonstrating a lamentable lack of leadership. Some wind farm proposals are incredibly inappropriate and are leading to the industrialisation of our most beautiful, wild and open mountain landscapes.
“Right now, as companies gather for RenewableUK 2012, a public inquiry is taking place into the truly dreadful Allt Duine scheme to build 31 immense turbines in the heart of the Monadhliadth Mountains, adjacent to the Cairngorms National Park, near Aviemore. We call on the First Minister, Alex Salmond to use his speech at RenewableUK 2012 to make a stand for Scotland’s natural heritage and to condemn industrialisation of this kind.
“VisitScotland recognises that badly sited wind farms will drive visitors away, Scottish Natural Heritage bemoans the cumulative impact they can have on the landscape, and 2013 is billed as the Year of Natural Scotland – yet Mr Salmond has done nothing to protect the mountains that are recognised internationally one of our nation’s greatest assets.
“We believe that there are many in the green energy sector who share our view that Scotland needs a clear national spatial planning policy for onshore wind farms to replace the current failed system. The Scottish Government must also clarify exactly how much electricity they see being generated from onshore wind. By working together we can protect our natural heritage and our tourism industry, while creating greater certainty for developers and their investors.”
There is a serious risk that poor practice in wind farm location will undermine public and investor confidence in the industry itself, which despite the best efforts of some companies, is demonstrating that it cannot regulate itself.
The MCofS, which has 11,400 members, recently published a manifesto, Protecting our Mountains. This is backed by the 75,000-strong British Mountaineering Council (representing England and Wales), the Munro Society, the Cairngorms Campaign and the North East Mountain Trust (NEMT). It calls for a moratorium on further wind farm developments in areas of special sensitivity, such as the Munros and Corbetts which are Scotland’s highest peaks.