Just two weeks into the Year of Natural Scotland and Highland Council looks set to back a wind farm scheme which would damage some of the nation’s best mountain landscapes.
Council planners are recommending that councillors do not object to a proposal by major power company SSE to build 27 huge turbines at Dalnessie, Lairg. The development would ruin some of the best remaining wild lands in Scotland. The final decision, though, rests with the Scottish Government.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland which, along with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) objected to the proposal, has warned that if the council does not reject the proposal, and the Scottish Government subsequently support the project, the outcome will be the loss of an important national resource.
David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, said: “Just a few days ago Alex Salmond declared that ‘in this Year of Natural Scotland, there is no better time to enjoy Scotland’s great outdoors’. Unless he acts right now it will be the last time that people will have the chance to see the fabulous mountain landscapes round Dalnessie in their natural state. After that they will be reduced to an industrial site.
“Right now the Year of Natural Scotland looks like an empty slogan. If it is to have any meaning at all the First Minister should stop making misguided statements and get on with delivering policies that will protect our countryside. Time and time again we hear the same mantra from the Scottish Government saying that appropriate protection for our wild land exists. The truth is exactly the opposite.
“Highland councillors must make a stand by rejecting these proposals and taking seriously their obligations to protect our natural heritage. We believe the scheme is contrary to the Highland Council’s own wind farm spatial planning policy – part of the proposed development lies in the Ben Klibreck Special Protection Area and also it is in a SNH Strategic Locational Guidance Zone 3, which presumes no large scale wind farm development.”
Highland Council planning committee will be asked to vote on the scheme on 15 January. The report prepared by its planners notes that the Scottish Government has still not declared its final policy position on wind farms and wild lands. This guidance is urgently required due to the large number of industrial scale wind farms which threaten our countryside.
The MCofS has stated previously that it believes that inappropriate wind farm developments could have a severe impact on tourism and on the valuable jobs they provide in fragile rural economies. Recent reports showing a 12% drop in Scottish tourism last summer make the case more urgent than ever.
Dalnessie wind farm, if approved by ministers, would be close to mountains of great national importance, and highly popular with hill walkers and visitors alike, including Ben Klibreck, Ben Hope, Ben More Assynt, Ben Hee and Ben Loyal.