Complete ban on turbines in National Parks and National Scenic Areas

LIKE all of Scotland’s outdoor NGO’s I very much welcome the new safeguards for wild land in Scotland as published by the Government today in its new National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy. In total, about 30% of the land mass of Scotland will receive significantly greater protection from developments like large scale wind farms.

Turbines will be completely banned from National Parks and National Scenic Areas, and that move will completely safeguard the finest of our mountain landscapes.

In addition, those areas described as ‘wild land’ in a map of the country drawn up by Scottish Natural Heritage will see a “significant increase” in protection.

These very proposals were flagged up some time ago in a draft document that I wrote about in my column in and, to be honest, were met with some suspicion by various NGO’s. Despite public criticism and a huge amount of lobbying from the renewables industry, energy companies and some local councils, the Government has very much stuck to its guns and  there is very little change from the original proposals.

Part of the reason for that was the huge amount of public support for the complete ban in NP’s and NSA’s and the excellent public response to the second consultation on the SNH wild land map.

I’m going to sit down with a large dram and work my way through the various documents and once I’ve got my head round it all I’ll write a fuller piece for my next column in Meanwhile I congratulate the Scottish Government on its boldness in facing up to the lobbying pressures of the energy companies and in publicly agreeing with so many of us that ‘wild land’ is a nationally important asset.

I would fully endorse the comments of the John Muir Trust’s Stuart Brooks who said today: “This recognition of Scotland’s wild land as a nationally important asset that needs to be safeguarded marks a historic breakthrough. Scotland’s landscapes are spectacular, contributing to our quality of life, our national identity and the visitor economy. The John Muir Trust has fought long and hard over many years with the support of many thousands of people to achieve official recognition for wild land and we welcome this commitment.’’

26 thoughts on “Complete ban on turbines in National Parks and National Scenic Areas

  1. Unfortunately this still leaves the other 70% vulnerable to the brown envelope brigade which our Scottish Government appear to nurture. Presumably goes into Alec’s Bahamas fund when he retires.

  2. Considering there has never been a wind factory built within a National Park, National Nature Reserve or National Scenic Area, this latests policy does little to stop the spread of turbines throughout Scotland. It doesn’t even ‘safeguard’ these areas, as all the developers have to do is insist the SNP government and Scottish Natural Heritage change the ‘wild land’ map, and hey presto, the wind factory suddenly ‘fits well’ with the landscape. SSE’s despicable Stronelairg approval by Fergus Ewing, and the changes made to the SNH ‘wild land’ map between December 2013 and June 2014, with a massive hole covering Stronelairg area, is evidence of this. And if by some slight chance it does ‘safeguard’ these areas, will this simply not put greater pressure on other areas? What about Glen Affric, Ben Wyvis, Glen Moriston and Cairn Duhie to mention a few. All under great threat from massive and inappropriate industrial wind turbines. Are these areas not worthy of protection from the greed of wind developers, who care little about Scotland? Certainly, the SNP will offer no protection, as they constantly bend over backwards to please wind developers.

    • Aye, the Stronelairig decision didn’t help the Government’s case but I don’t think I’m quite as pessimistic as you are about the future. 😉 Because there are no approved windfarms within NSA’s at the moment was no guarantee there wouldn’t be in the future. That guarantee is now set in stone.

      • The SNP Governments ‘case’! What ‘case’? They have no care what so ever regarding the destruction they are inflicting on Scottish landscapes.The problem here is that it is that nothing is ‘set in stone’. The SNP government will simply move the goalposts to appease the wind developers. And what about sites which are sometimes only a few hundred meters from NSA’s?
        Wind turbines are a scam. Built for one thing only, and that is to benefit the rich landowners and developers. The SNP and Fergus Ewing in particular should be ashamed of what they are doing to Scotland. As another well read blogger has said, “Ewing should be ostracised by every sound. minded hillwalker”. Unless of course said hillwalkers are quite content to see our hills and mountains trashed by turbines.

      • The map you refer to was the 2013 draft wild land map. The latest map obviously has some changes in places where windfarms have been given permission in the past year.
        With regards to your rant about wind farms I’m sure you are not alone in your thoughts. From my own perspective I have walked the length of Scotland and walked across Scotland three times in the past five years. At no point were any of my trips spoiled by wind farms. I’m no lover of wind turbines but gross exaggeration and bluster doesn’t help any campaign. I’d be delighted to see any evidence you have of the Scottish Government “moving the goalposts to appease the wind developers.” That would be really helpful.

  3. The Scottish Government’s record on wild land protection, specifically as it relates to wind farm proliferation, does not encourage me to trust in the high-sounding pledges contained in the NPF. Actions ALWAYS speak louder than words. George Orwell, were he still around today, would have a field day. I would not trust this document as far as I could throw it at the first turbine to rise over Stronelairg.

  4. It breaks my heart to see parts of Scotland these days. One of the most iconic landscapes on Earth. I do wonder if the politicians and planners ever really look at the precious asset they have.

    • Scotland’s politicians and planners are blind to the jewel they have under their hand. That’s why they are repeatedly smashing down the hammer on top of it. Without wishing to exaggerate, my life has been blighted by the tidal wave of wind farm development. These sickening monstrosities do not belong in the magnificent mountain landscapes of this country, end of story

  5. Is the fact that Stronelairg was included in the ‘draft wild land map’ of Dec 2013, then politely removed by SNH, no doubt on the orders of their paymaster, (the SNP government), to fit in with the approval of these turbines by Fergus Ewing, evidence enough that the SNP will move the goalposts or bend over backwards to aid wind developers?
    What you call my ‘rant’ concerning wind factories, is what I would simply call fact. There is plenty of evidence as to the costs to the consumer, the vast sums made by developers and landowners and the lack of benefit to the country or the planet, by building wind turbines.
    I too walk many miles across Scotland, but unfortunately, like so many other walkers, I find many walks are spoiled by the sight of these things. It is difficult nowadays to climb any hill in Scotland, and not see turbines. Which saddens me greatly.
    My local Munro of Ben Wyvis, previously had the most superb views out towards The Fannichs and An Teallach. Now, a few dozen turbines, (with more to come) stuck right in the middle. And no doubt, with the aid of Fergus Ewing and the SNP, Ben Wyvis will soon be surrounded on all sides by turbines. I find it quite heartbreaking. If however, you can find something like this acceptable, along with so many other examples, (with more to come), then so be it.
    In previous correspondence with you many years back, I was always under the impression that someone with your influence on the ordinary people of Scotland through your books, TV and radio programmes etc, would be a ‘champion’ in the fight against this scam. It would appear that you have been won over by the spin of the wind industry, and the morally corrupt energy policies of the SNP.

  6. I’m sorry Angus, but I think this comment of yours – “It is difficult nowadays to climb any hill in Scotland, and not see turbines.” – is complete and utter nonsense and is typical of the exaggeration that many anti-wind campaigners use in their argument. I’m all for reasoned debate but this sort is statement is so clearly exaggeration that it simply undermines all your other points, some of which I’m sure have been made in good faith. Part of the reason I don’t align myself with anti-wind groups is because of this kind of exaggeration. I fully respect the feelings of those who don’t like wind but if I am to argue effectively with politicians or others I need hard facts, not assertions like I have been won over “by the spin of the wind industry” or the nonsense spouted in another response above that “it goes into Alex’s Bahamas fund”. Nor do I believe the SNP energy policies are morally corrupt. If you believe that is the case give me evidence.
    On the past half dozen hills I’ve stood on in Scotland in recent weeks I haven’t seen any turbines at all. I say this not to defend the wind industry or the SNP government but to show how clearly you are exaggerating. That’s not to say that in the future we might see turbines from every mountain, heaven forbid, but that’s far, far from the case at the moment.
    At the moment most people in Scotland support wind energy, as do all the political parties with the exception of UKIP. It’s difficult enough trying to argue the case for wild land with politicians but it’s even more difficult when they quote back at me the type of stuff you’re spouting, without a hint of evidence. It would be helpful if we could all debate the facts, not your own misguided imagination.
    With regards to Ben Wyvis, the turbines you can see from the summit were the first turbines I laid eyes on after walking all the way from Iona last year. I’m not suggesting I found them acceptable, but they certainly didn’t deflect too much from what had otherwise been a superb long walk.

    • I bow to your greater knowledge of hills, mountains and routes through Scotland where turbines cannot be seen from. Perhaps I have just been unlucky in my choice of routes and hilltops, but like Jane in her last comment, (which doesn’t appear to be here), ” people like me now approach the summit of just about any hill in a state of sick apprehension….because there is no end in sight to this tidal wave [of turbines] rolling over Scotland from south to north and from east to west”.
      “Utter nonsense and exaggeration” though? Perhaps you along with the SNP government will think so, but so many others who wish to defend our countryside from wind developments, do not.
      You say “at the moment most people in Scotland support wind energy”. Have the people in Scotland been told about the costs, i.e subsidies, related to wind power? About how wind always requires constant backup from fossil fuelled power stations? About the problems with balancing the grid, and how the cause of the recent blackout covering the best part of Scotland was most likely caused by a sudden drop in wind power output? (Despite the lies from the SNP). About the noise and health problems inflicted upon those who have turbines built close to their homes? About how they do nothing to prevent or alleviate any problems associated with climate change? I could go on, but that would be a RANT.
      Or have the people of Scotland who support wind power been told the ‘selective spin’ of the politicians and the wind industry? Perhaps if Scots were told some FACTS about wind power, there would be less support.
      You obviously, and naturally, have your own opinions on the SNP and on wind power. I too have my opinions, and stand by all I have said about both. I do hope that it is me who is wrong. If however things continue as they are, and I don’t see these latest so called ‘safeguards’ making one blind bit of difference, the future of the Scottish countryside under this SNP government, does not look promising.

    • Hi Cameron,
      With the greatest respect, I have to agree with Angus and Jane. It has been a long time since I last climbed a hill from which no turbines could be seen. Maybe you’re climbing them in clag! Or maybe you are unconsciously picking routes that avoid seeing them. Take Ben Avon, one of the most remote Munros. You can see probably 4 wind farms from the top and at sunset they are extremely visible when the sun lights up the blades. I was on top of Carn an Fhidhleir two years ago. Again, one of the remotest Munros there are. I could see the Drumderg wind farm very clearly. I suspect you can now also see the Griffin and Calliachar ones. From Torridon you can see the turbines on Lewis. The Millennium wind farm is visible from all Glen Affric peaks, from Craig Meggy. All Munros in the Southern Highlands, which are what the vast majority of people climb, are now blessed with 4/5 wind farms clearly visible on all directions. I haven’t been back up North in a while but I expect the Lochluichart wind farm will now be visible from the Monar hills, right? So perhaps it’s all right when you’re at glen level, but as soon as you climb up it is turbines all round you. Glen Coe is still all right, I think, but I haven’t been back in a while. Some of the Tyndrum hills are fine too, but just. And of course it’s not only the views that are spoilt but the hills themselves, with mile upon mile of track that will NEVER be restored fully, and thousands of tonnes of concrete poured on peat land. And the fact is: the SNP is committed to doubling the number of land turbines in Scotland. They will have to go somewhere. Incidentally, your headline, with respect, is highly misleading. Nowhere does the SG document say turbines will be banned. In fact, it allows that “in some circumstances” a case might even be made for turbines to be built on national parks and NSAs. If they had intended to secure a ban they would have stated: in *no* circumstances would turbines be allowed. But they do not say anything remotely like that. And there is no consideration for the impact on NSAs from turbines erected just beyond the boundaries. The document is just window-dressing, I’m afraid. Please keep up the good fight nonetheless, but sadly the fact is that we are witnessing the destruction of a unique natural resource, Scotland’s landscapes, that, once gone, will never return to its previous state. An intelligent, mature government would have made Scotland the leading nation in a genuinely new kind of stewardship, restoring the old forests, restoring the proper habitat on the hills, instead what we are seeing across the board is a government that allows more and more bulldozed tracks to service fat blokes shooting anything that moves, piss-poor management of the ecosystem, and a way of “producing” electricity that is, frankly, an insult to one’s intelligence. We are importing a failed technology, developed for countries profoundly different from ours. We have failed to produce intelligent, innovative models of energy production and management. I’m sorry, this document is just a sham, pulling wool over our eyes while we continue to damage the environment without the slightest regard for its fragile condition. When was the last time, Cameron, that you visited the site of a wind farm under construction?

  7. You say “I fully respect the feelings of those who don’t like wind but if I am to argue effectively with politicians or others I need hard facts…”

    Could you let us know which politicians you have recently had discussions with about wind farms on wild land and what was said?

    Thank you

    • Since 20012 I’ve four meetings with the First Minister specifically on the subject of wild land protection and wind turbines. I’ve had several conversations with the environment minister and a meeting with the planning minister. At these meetings I urged them to set aside large areas of our finest mountain landscapes for protection from wind farm development. I didn’t argue for a moratorium on wind development as I believe wind is a part of the energy mix we need to ensure future energy supplies and to combat climate change. As you know Alan, I am a member of the SNP so frequently meet politicians and have the opportunity to discuss these matters.

      • Cameron. Just been reading through these posts, and think you are being extremely optimistic in your thoughts on the SNP protecting wild land. Also have to agree with some of the commentators here, that the number of hills you can walk on today without seeing turbines is becoming fewer and fewer, and if the SNP continue with their ludicrous wind policy, which I believe they will/must do to save face, it won’t be too long until all mountain tops have turbines clearly visible from the summits.
        I have also read your article on Walkhighlands, ‘Wild Land-A Historic Breakthrough’. This article, and your comments above regarding meeting Alex Salmond and other ministers, has spurred me into this post. In the Walkhighlands article, you end by stating “The hugely generous subsidies paid out by the Westminster Government to potential wind developers will ensure a steady stream of applications. The only way to halt those applications is to cut the subsidy off at source. And that source lies with George Osbourne in London.”
        To me, this statement, and the fact that you have the ear of ministers and Salmond, suggests that perhaps you know something which we, the general public, have not been told by the SNP. Namely, that as you put the blame for the ever increasing numbers of turbines blighting out landscapes at the door of George Osbourne in London, obviously due to the ‘hugely generous subsidies’, a Yes vote in the referendum, with the SNP in power, would result in the removal/reduction in the subsidies for wind turbines. Turbines are only built for the subsidies, as any environmental benefits are negligible and always grossly overestimated by the wind industry and politicians, (particularly SNP politicians). Removal/reduction of subsidies would undoubtedly see no more (new) turbines on our landscapes, which could only be a good thing for Scotland. Wild land or otherwise.
        Finally, does your optimism for the SNP protection of wild land extend to the latest proposal for the ‘Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm, on Rannoch’, or will this be one of the ‘exceptional circumstances’ we all expect from the SNP?

      • The Scottish Government is determined to establish an off-shore renewables energy industry ie off-shore wind,tidal and wave power, but at the moment developers are very restricted in what they can do because of the very high cost of connecting to the grid, a charge that is levied by Westminster. If a YES vote is forthcoming then that cost to connect to the grid would be taken away from Westminster, along with the wind subsidies, and Scotland could begin to make some headway with marine renewable energy, the potential of which is enormous and would lessen the need for on-shore wind farms.

      • With all due respect Cameron. but I think it is you who is talking “complete and utter nonsense ” in your reply to Willie Ross. Wave and tidal power may appear to be a great idea, but it is proving extremely difficult to develop on any kind of large scale. Off-shore wind, which is at least three times as expensive as conventional power, is also proving extremely difficult to develop in Scottish deeper and wilder seas. Although the SNP government are throwing OUR money at these ‘test turbines’ left, right and center.
        As for ‘taking the grid connections and subsidies away from Westminster’ and allowing Salmond to control these, if we vote YES. That would simply be a disaster for all parts of Scotland, and do nothing more than give Salmond a greater reason to ignore all democracy for local people affected by massive wind factories. If the plan is to develop ‘off-shore’ why are they continuing to approve on-shore now, with only a few weeks until the vote. The Dersalloch Hill approval last week, with over 5000 objections, two Ayrshire councils and council planning officials all objecting. Yet Fergus Ewing approves it. What kind of democracy is that?
        And what happens if following a Yes vote, rUK say no thanks to our wind power? Will the Scottish subsidies controlled by Salmond be reduced or removed? Or more likely. the Scottish consumers be forced to pay for these. Or do you follow Salmond’s lead, and say “rUK will be happy to pay Scottish subsidies”?
        I note too that you did not mention the ‘Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm, on Rannoch’ as mentioned in the post from Willie Ross. Right in the middle of Area 14 of the ‘Wild Land’ map which should have the “significant increase in protection” you mention above. Could it be that the Wild Land map will be ‘adjusted’ again? I do hope we will see your name in the list of objectors.

      • Cameron, you say “The Scottish Government is determined to establish an off-shore renewables energy industry ie off-shore wind,tidal and wave power,”

        The SG may well be determined to do that. but with onshore wind receiving 0.9 ROCs, off shore wind receiving 2.0 ROCs and tidal/wave receiving 5.0 ROC’s, which of these do you think business will plump for? Will they really be prepared to pay six times the market rate for tidal/wave generated electricity? Already SSE and other wind farm developers are pulling out of Scottish offshore schemes because the economics – even at three times the market rate for the electricity – do not stack up.

        This is bluster and obfuscation from the SG of the worst kind. They know damn well that the only way they are going to meet their own target of 100% equivalent electricity generation from renewables is from onshore wind.

        So let’s not hear any more nonsense about offshore wind and tidal/wave power. The SG will need to have 70% more power generated from onshore wind turbines, and those turbines have to go somewhere.

        Already the Talladh-a-Bheithe developer is challenging the SNH wild map, in a forensic fashion and this is the legal basis of its application.

        Stronelairg was a stitch up, with the map redrawn to permit its approval. In order to meet its ambitious targets I would guess that the SG will simply redraw the Talladh-a-Bheithe’s Area 14 Wild Land boundary, to shove it back towards the 2002 Search Area boundary.

        Then of course, the Balmacaan’s 200 odd turbines will be approved, then the Stronelairg fill-in turbines for an additional 60 or so… And so it will go on.

        And I expect you will still support the DG’s energy policy.

        I do hope that you will be objecting to the Talladh-a-Bheithe scheme. It has not passed hill-goers attention that you have been woefully quiet on the subject.

  8. I think that the Wild Lands map is a great move forward and SNH has commented that they look at those borders as soft borders, transitional areas. But there is as yet no statutory protection of Wild Lands. The ban on developments within National Parks and NSAs is positive although no wind farms have ever been built in a National Park or NSA/NNR in Scotland. One single turbine was built at the Lecht .Derek MacKay failed to mention NNRs, SSIs etc. Are they also protected or are they a trade off*? Wind Farms have however been built within National Parks in Wales though so protection cannot be a bad thing. Where there is a divergence from our hopes is wind farms outside National Parks which will still have a large visual impact on them. Such as the case at Cairngorm(Allt Duihne) and the ever extending wind farms on the Monadliaths. An interesting correlation between The Highland Council submission and the removal of Stronelairg from the 2014 Wild Lands Map. By protecting the National Park it may well be that there is a payment and that may be the approval of applications in close proximity. Protection of Wild Lands is nominally through SNH but their track record, especially at Beinn Mhor by Glen Affric, leaves much to be desired. SNH is under pressure to support renewables (indeed this is one of the requirements on it by government in the current grant-in-aid letter from Edinburgh). Where I do have serious reservations is the contra position of statements within the Nation Planning Framework 3 and the Scottish Planning policy with it’s restrictions on local councils to oppose renewable development. This needs further study and consideration. Do I have your faith that SG will honour their commitments? I don’t know but the problem is that as the Loch Ness Ring of Steel closes the genie will not go back in the bottle. I spent a deal of time studying the representations to SNH on the Wild Lands consultation and noted the large number of wind farm developers that raised issues, many generic and built around renewable targets. On the other hand the local comments were informed and knowledgeable. Looking at the comparative maps a great deal was removed and far less added. Considering the disparity fin the quality of representations, I would have expected it the other way around. Our own area 24 was included in ‘Advice to the Minister’ for inclusion of much of Glen Orrin and yet the map only contained some 20% of the proposed and recommended extension while Strathfarrar lost a great swathe over the road. The objections(2) to the inclusions were woolly headed and rambling and centred around the operational Fairburn Wind farm which was erroneously described as within 1km of the 2013 map designation. So do I trust SG. The jury is out! Comments have been levelled at such as John Muir Trust for initially welcoming the proposals. Hopefully, like you, on further and full consideration a calculated and balanced response will be forthcoming. I think my mark for the Minister would be ‘satis’ but could do better! For a long time I have considered that Tourism is the poor relation to Renewables, not helped by not having independent Ministers. Tourism comes in many forms but a recurrent theme is the love of the Scenery, the Lochs, the Rivers, the Wild Lands, Mountains and Glens. That iconic landscape deserves far more protection than it has so far received and an extension of our National Parks should be addressed urgently. Should that be expeditiously done then the protection against the march of wind farms would have far more teeth. *When Scottish Renewables welcomed the proposal, albeit with their usual bluff and bravado and wild claims, I did start looking at the small print!

  9. I realise that this comments thread has come to a more or less natural close, but I thought that folk might be interested in this, issued today, by the developers of Talladh-a-Bheithe.
    It shows clearly how they are going to challenge the Wild Land Map and that they think Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Planning Policy (Para 215) invite them to do so.
    This means that the Wild Land Map makes no difference at all – Wild Land designation means nothing to the developers.

  10. As Alan has suggested above, this comments thread has come to a natural close. There have been 25 comments and I think the discussion has been well aired. Thanks to everyone for their contributions.

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