Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Wind turbines and Forestry Commission Land

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Alan Sloman on David Lintern's programme yesterday evening -  not surprisingly, since my views are indistinguishable from his. Scotland's wild landscapes are stuffed, although I think Alan wanted to use a rather different word but couldn't on air!

And just to drive home that fact, here's some more depressing news.

Energy companies have, apparently, been given the go-ahead to develop Forestry Commission land for renewable energy which would see some extra 200 turbines erected.

In SW Scotland, Scottish Power Renewables will work with the commission to develop land in Arran and Dumfries and Galloway, while PNE Wind UK will look at schemes in Stirlingshire, Cowal, the Trossachs (in a National Park!?) and Tayside; in Argyll, Lochaber, Invernesshire and the Northern Highlands, E.ON Climate and Renewables UK Developments will be the preferred developer; in Grampian Fred Olsen will oversee this plunder.

Communities in the vicinity will get 'leading edge' annual payments, which can be reinvested into the developments, and can also add their own money to get a greater stake in the schemes. The next eight months will see developers identify suitable sites.

I wondered why Alex Salmond didn't want to sell off Scotland's forests like Mr Cameron south of the border.

Build more coffins Alan.


  1. Alan was on top form, as was Andy, and it was great to meet them. Whilst I share Alan's passion, I think we need to tread careful - as I said to him afterwards, be careful of saying its all over - 6 weeks ago so were the forests in England. Also, the media want live stories, not afait acompli ones. The coffin is still a powerful symbol, but a symbol of despair only? Lastly, do you want a campaign about industrialisation of wild land, or do you want to talk about nuclear? Single issue politics wins the day, it would seem.

    Andy and Chris Townsend both suggest taking more photos, like Alan Rayner has recently, which show the sheer scale and destruction of these machines. We can be good silent witness' in this way. Advocacy and letter writing and internet campaigning also work. Working on alliances between different bodies is also essential in my view. I think there is still much to play for. I wish Alan all the very best with his campaign and hope to support it in any way I can.

  2. Hi David,

    Afraid I can’t agree!

    It may seem like a counsel of despair, but my view that the Scottish landscape is on its way to ruin is not a recently formed one. I’ve climbed and walked in Scotland all my life and have seen the wild places degraded year by year, but I’ve never witnessed such a massive and determined assault as is happening now. And a recent report in ‘Scottish Mountaineer’ gives me no reason to suppose I, or indeed “an alliances between different bodies” will be able to stop it. They didn’t stop the Beauly to Denny power upgrade or, for that matter, manage to get any of the lines undergrounded. I’m not criticising – far from it - they did all they could and we should be grateful for the effort made, but the odds were stacked against them. Just recently, and only days after the Wild Land Petition was handed into Holyrood, the Scottish Government reversed a local council’s decision to reject a proposed application for turbines in the south of Scotland.

    The attempted sell-off of Forestry Commission land in England is not really comparable I don’t think. There was, rightly, a general outcry south of the border.(I signed the petition myself). However, consider a recent YouGov poll (admittedly taken on behalf of Scottish Renewables) which showed that more than 50% of people rejected the view that turbines are ugly and a blot on the landscape. 78% agreed that wind farms (farms is their word) are necessary to “help us meet current and future energy needs”. In the five years from 2005 the number of onshore wind turbines has increased from 473 to 1229. Following the poll result, Dr Gordon Edge, director of lobby group RenewableUK said that the findings should increase pressure to cut red tape around wind farm projects. Watch this space. (Source: Scottish Mountaineer).

    As for writing to politicians, I’ve done my fair share. I’ve written to Salmond, Mather and to SNP candidates and politicians who stick election leaflets through my letter box. I’ve had one reply (March 2008) which to all intents and purposes simply said that the Scottish Government was "determined to exploit Scotland's vast potential to generate electricity from renewable energy"

    I also wrote to a local councillor regarding the newest Ochils turbine station at Burnfoot in the Ochils and his carefully argued response was that I “needed help”. I’ve written to VisitScotland with no reply, and to BBC Scotland when they showed turbines during a weather forecast. I suggested that this was a subliminal message saying “Wind turbines were a good thing” and, although I didn’t get a reply, that image hasn't appeared again on the programme!

    Of course I’m not going to stop writing to politicians or supporting any and every effort to prevent this industrialisation of our hills, but I remain pessimistic about the outcome.
    Taking and publishing photographs of the destruction caused by these power stations as Andy and Chris Townsend suggest would be no bad thing of course, but take a look at to see the sort of publicity the power companies use to win over local communities and others. The visitor centre cost £2m.

    Finally, as regards nuclear power, we won’t have it in Scotland under the present administration. That may change in May, but apparently “the Scottish people don’t want nuclear” although I can’t ever remember being asked.

    That’s enough from me I think and thanks for commenting David!

  3. Edit: meant to say that Scotland won't have *additional* or replacement nuclear power stations.

  4. Agree entirely with your point, afoot.

    It's diabolical just now. The area where I live it's being bombarded with applications. We fought off three major applications over the past five years and now a different company is putting forward basically the very same applications in slightly altered format, plus some new ones as well. They're just wearing the opposition out.

    And I tell you something else. I know there will be people who'll find the comparison excessive but if I reflect on how things have changed with respect to wind power plants over the past ten years, well I now finally realise how fascism came to be in Europe back in the 1930s. I've always wondered how it was possible, how could people let it happen. Well, now I know. The monumental brainwashing that has been going on, from the BBC down to the stuff they teach in primary school (forcing the kids to 'christen' the local turbines), it's just mind boggling. How can anyone think not just that wind plants are a necessary evil, but that they are actually attractive. Attractive! And that they enhance the landscape, and that the more turbines we get the better it will be, that it will free us from dependency on nasty regimes abroad (as if we didn't need rare earth metals from China, that paragon of democracy and human rights, to manufacture turbines). It's just frightening. So damn frightening. And I've been noticing it for years that in a certain kind of milieu you just can't even say you think wind plants are a bad idea, they just look at you as if you're a weirdo. Just like that local councillor suggesting to you you should get help. It makes me want to leave this country and never return.

    As for the Highlands, they're using the excuse of the wind plant to build more and more tracks. It has always been a delicate ecology and it would be good if they invested money in making it a better and wilder environment but instead they are using the excuse of renewables to destroy it for ever. I bet they can't believe their luck that they've got FOE, Greenpeace and the other clowns like the RSPB on their side. Which other industry gets a blank cheque to take huge excavators, cranes, concrete and metal up on a remote hillside? It's so damn unbelievable.

    I'm giving up on humanity. Certainly, I've given up on Scotland. And like you I've roamed this country most of my life and it was the best place on earth for me. I just hope we'll get the storm of the century one of these winters and it'll take down all of the turbines, preferably crashing down on as many MSPs as possible.

  5. Andy B. - Your comment is, needless to say, most welcome, and I think you've pretty much said all there is to say. I was aware of the "christening" rituals in some schools (the last one I heard of was on Skye) and I left the RSPB in disgust at their stance on wind energy.

    Scotland was indeed the "best place on earth". How can this be happening?

  6. Gibson, I also cancelled my RSPB subscription for the same reasons a couple of years back.

    And I bet the 'Friends of the earth' (like hell they are!) chap who accosted me outside Birmingham's Bullring is still wondering quite what he did to warrant the ear-bending.

  7. I wish I could have been there to hear it. I live for the day it might happen to me.

  8. Aye, the thing about RSPB and FOE is that they now get loads more of their money from the Government and the EU than they do from private donations/subscriptions. They've become in effect government mouthpieces and now the seriously big money is in wind. I think that's why Holyrood is going the wind way. As long as ROC and all the other incentives are in place, they are guaranteed an income no matter what. It's a form of indirect subsidy to the entire economy. BUT! The money comes from somewhere, and it's our electricity bills of course, plus other taxes. A plague upon 'em all...

  9. Oh yes, we're paying for it all - in every sense.

  10. Hi
    I have been out of circulation for a little while and so have only just caught up with you.
    I thoroughly agree with you and Andy B - funding has to be a major factor in their decision making process.

  11. Cheers Alan. I posted a comment on your most recent post before I picked this one up.