Scottish Minister’s are still considering whether to give protection to areas of wild land as part of their review of planning laws. A final decision is expected soon. Over the last few months there has been plenty of debate about why it is so important to protect these wild land areas. At Highland Council we had a heated debate about giving support for the widest protection possible. Unfortunately that plea fell on deaf ears, with planners preferring to restrict the protection areas, and some councillors taking the attitude that development, such as wind farms, is better out of sight and out of mind.
The new survey from the Mountaineering Council of Scotland provides further evidence that wind farms can have an impact on tourism; in this case those visiting the Highlands for hill walking and mountaineering activities. Small Highland communities and businesses rely on the income from this group of visitors, which unlike traditional tourism continues year round. Yet, when the impact on tourism is mentioned, both developers and planners dismiss it as irrelevant; some suggesting that a wind farm can be a big tourist draw! Let’s hope ministers do take in to consideration these findings, but I suspect they will listen to the loud lobbying from renewable energy companies instead.