Britain’s biggest walking charity is warning outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy Scotland’s wildernesses while they can, before they disappear.
Ramblers Scotland said the untrammelled development of windfarms, and the bulldozing of hill tracks across some of the country’s wild lands, risk turning them into industrial landscapes.
Convener Dennis Canavan called on the tourist and outdoor industry to demand a halt on large-scale onshore wind turbine development.
Mr Canavan, a former MP and MSP, said: “We are working with the tourist industry to help visitors enjoy and appreciate our wild places.
“But our message carries a serious warning: enjoy the stunning landscapes of Scotland now, before a massive expansion in wind turbines and bulldozed access roads turns our wild places into industrial landscapes. Reports from Scottish Natural Heritage have spelt out the rapid rate of wild land loss in recent years and this must be stopped.”
He said the subsidies offered to developers for wind turbines projects were ‘irresistible’ and left the energy companies laughing all the way to the bank.
Mr Canavan said: “It is astonishing that the public subsidy provided by the Renewables Obligation and funded by every UK electricity consumer is encouraging such a reckless disregard for the natural beauty of our land.
“How can we continue to claim that Scotland is the Adventure Capital of Europe when the very resource that reputation depends on is being squandered?”
He added he was in favour of developing renewable energy sources that did not destroy Scotland’s wild lands. “I welcome the aspirations of the Scottish Government to meet all our energy needs from renewable sources,” he said. “But there is an urgent need to change the policies, targets and financial incentives that are set at European and UK levels so that those aspirations can be met in ways which do not destroy the natural beauty of Scotland.
“There are many options for renewable energy development which deserve far more public funding support.
“We need to persuade politicians to shift the subsidy away from massive land-based windfarms and into small scale farm-, croft- and community-based wind turbine developments, solar, biomass and geothermal systems.
“Large scale wind farms should be confined to offshore locations, along with wave and tidal developments and improved financial support.
“The message must be: why are you wasting our money on this senseless industrialisation of one of Europe’s finest remaining tracts of unspoilt land? Surely there are better ways to secure Europe’s energy future.”