Renewable energy (Scotland)

Scotland’s natural beauty is a key part of our national identity and fundamentally important for tourism and outdoor recreation. We support the Scottish Government’s efforts to address climate change through a transition to low carbon, renewable forms of energy, but want to ensure any impact upon special landscapes is minimised.

Introduction

There is an urgent need to address global climate change, and a transition to low carbon forms of electricity generation is a key part of that process.

The Scottish Government aims to produce 100% of our electricity through renewables by 2020 and there has been an expansion of large scale onshore wind development over recent years. This has led to a huge impact on many of Scotland’s landscapes.

Research shows that the amount of land unaffected by visual intrusion reduced from 35% to 27% between 2008-2013. During the same five-year period, the area of Scotland from which wind turbines are visible more than doubled from 20% to 46%. 

In seeking a balance between landscape quality and renewable energy development, it is important to avoid badly-sited windfarms or hydro energy schemes. Scotland’s natural heritage and wild landscapes are famous throughout the world.

They inspire and refresh us, are a magnificent setting for outdoor recreation and are the main reason why people visit Scotland. 

A measure of protection for our most treasured landscapes has now been established through planning policy with large wind farms excluded from National Parks or National Scenic Areas and the adoption of a map of core areas of wild land where there is a presumption against large scale developments.

These policies are now being tested as new developments are proposed within them or on their borders. Other landscapes of local importance and value are still at risk.

Our position 

It is part of the Ramblers' charitable objectives to protect the outdoor environment. We recognise the wider public interest in ensuring that nature and heritage should be cared for and respected.

We support the need to make massive changes in lifestyles and energy use to help minimise the effects of human-induced climate change.

The development of renewable energy sources, greater efficiencies in energy use and energy conservation should be key aspects of current and future policy. At a GB level, Ramblers has joined the Community Energy Coalition, supporting small scale energy projects.

However, some landscapes are more sensitive to change than others. Developing extensive wind farms and accompanying vehicular tracks and pylon lines across large tracts of the country has a significant impact, particularly in areas which are important for outdoor recreation.

We continue to have concerns over the planning and restoration standards for some smaller scale hydro schemes.

This risks causing long-term damage to the environment and the landscape.

The government adopted SNH’s map of core wild land areas into planning policy in June 2014 and we are now working to ensure that this policy is upheld.

We have objected to new wind farm applications located within wild land areas to test this policy, and continue to highlight hydro schemes which we feel will cause unwarranted levels of intrusion in areas of wild land.

We are happy to support our members and groups in making comments on applications for renewables developments in their areas.

Government action

Further development of onshore wind energy should take place within a robust planning framework, with the locations for developments guided by strategy and the use of landscape capacity studies.

We also call on the government to make greater efforts to reduce our energy consumption while supporting ways of generating electricity that minimise adverse environmental impacts.

Background 

Landscape and outdoor recreation interests are essential considerations when striking a balance between conserving the natural and cultural heritage, and using it as an economic resource.

Activities like walking and wildlife watching all depend on high quality scenery, and a 2010 report by Scottish Natural Heritage estimated that nature based tourism is worth £1.4bn each year to the Scottish economy, supporting 39,000 jobs.

We believe more consideration needs given to the potential impacts on the tourism industry as a result of this large scale onshore wind development. 

Potential wind farms are now being scoped for increasingly marginal sites, with notable recent cases located on the boundaries of our two national parks and in the heart of our wildest landscapes.

Modern wind turbines are too large to be able to fit comfortably into many landscapes, visually dominating surrounding views. In addition, upland habitats are often sensitive to change and slow to recover, displaying a lasting legacy of visual scars, while the presence of heavy engineering projects within upland landscapes is often inappropriate.

Page updated August 2017