Mountaineering Scotland has warned that wind farms could pose a major risk to the country’s multi-million pound walking tourism economy.
The organisation has published a report into the impact of windfarms following a survey of 1400 of its members.
Over two thirds (67 per cent) said they preferred not to see wind farms when in the mountains and 22 per cent said they avoided areas with wind farms when planning their activities.
Now, Mountaineering Scotland is warning that businesses in these areas could lose out as a result of a drop in visitor numbers.
David Gibson, Mountaineering Scotland Chief Executive said: “This survey gives us some important evidence about the real impact wind farms in inappropriate mountain locations can have on the behaviour of hill walkers and potentially other mountain users – but the impact goes more widely than this.
“If hill walkers avoid visiting areas affected by wind development then local communities will lose the money hill walking visitors bring to shops, places to stay and other visitor-related businesses.
“A 20 per cent reduction in hill walkers could easily make the difference between profit and loss for small enterprises in mountain areas across Scotland.”
He added: “Hill walkers are likely to be particularly sensitive consumers of landscape. They are therefore a barometer in terms of identifying wider tourism impacts from wind farms. Mountain recreation is a significant tourism market in Scotland. Walking tourism was estimated to bring in £627m to the Scottish economy in 2008 – more than all other nature-based tourism combined – and 15 per cent of all tourism spend.”
Mountaineering Scotland says its survey is the only one to ask Scottish hill walkers and mountaineers how wind farms impact their current mountaineering activities. In 2013-14, 56 per cent of members anticipated avoiding areas with wind farms in the future.
The body presented its new report to a public local inquiry last week into the proposed Whitelaw Brae wind farm in the Tweedsmuir Hills where 2020 Renewables wants to build a wind farm beside the largest area of high ground in southeast Scotland.
West of the Tweed is a massive spread of turbines, none of which were objected to by Mountaineering Scotland, but the organisation regards the landscape east of the Tweed as an important area of high ground that should be valued.