Burning Issue – Impact of Wind Farms on Tourism

This article of mine was published in the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald (The Strathy) on Thursday 7th June, 2012 in the “Burning Issues” column.

What do you think the impact will be on tourism if so many wind farms are sited across the landscape? 

Tourism and breakfast cereals don’t have many immediate similarities, but when you think about it, most of us go on holidays, and we all have our favourite cereal to start the day.  Whilst most of us are, therefore, consumers of tourism and breakfast cereals, for others these products represent their livelihood.

If someone were to add Marmite to your preferred cereal then I’m sure you would switch to an alternative product pretty quickly.  No manufacturer would be so stupid as to add an inappropriate ingredient to their product.

Cereal manufacturers wouldn’t be so complacent as to say: “It’s alright; no matter what we do to our product, consumers will always buy it anyway.”

Yet, that is the very way in which the Scottish Government and Visit Scotland are treating our rural tourism industry.  It’s as if they are saying: “It’s alright; we’ve seen the surveys showing landscape quality being the mainstay of the Scottish tourism industry, but we can industrialise our landscapes and spoil our famous views, because tourists will still come to Scotland anyway.”

Can we really afford to treat our largest industry in this condescending way?  Can our governemnt and national tourism body honestly believe they can ignore the screams from those who love the Highlands, and those who make their livings from providing tourism services?

Wind farms in the Highlands might not put people off visiting the Edinburgh Festivals, and being recorded in surveys as saying wind farms had no impact on their decision to visit Scotland.  However, if landscape quality continues to be damaged in the Highlands through the reckless proliferation of wind farms then there will be a tipping point at which our world class tourism appeal is damaged beyond repair.

As someone who is deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change and supports the fundamental principles of renewable energy and energy conservation, I am left chilled to the core by the way in which big businesses are exploiting our precious countryside without a care for the quality of experience of living in or visiting these beautiful places.

We can switch to another brand of cereal, but we only have a limited amount of countryside, and when it happens to contain the best scenery in the world we rightly want to protect it.