The inquiry into the controversial plans to build a new power line through some of Scotland’s most scenic country opened today.
More than 17,000 objections to the scheme have been received so far, including submissions from mountaineering, walking and conservation groups.
Local authorities and Scottish Natural Heritage are also opposing the plan, which would involve the renewal of the line from Beauly near Inverness to Denny, 137 miles away, near Stirling. The scheme envisages the construction of 600 pylons, up to 65m tall, on the line, passing through the Cairngorms National Park and the southern Highlands.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) has set up an appeal fund to raise cash for its fight against the power line.
The MCofS has joined the National Trust for Scotland, the John Muir Trust, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, the Scottish Wild Land Group and the Ramblers' Association to form the Beauly-Denny Landscape Group. Its case against the plan was submitted in November last year.
The public inquiry, which opened in Perth, is expected to last 11 months and will also sit in Stirling, Newtonmore and Inverness.
Scottish and Southern Energy wants to spend £320 on the power line, which it says is necessary to bring reliable transmission of power from renewable sources in the north of the country. It says putting the line underground would not be an economic proposition.
The inquiries findings will go to Scottish ministers for a final decision.