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Mountaineering body in new wind farm rage

Posted 25 January 2013
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Mountaineering body in new wind farm rage
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The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCoS) is a well-known opponent of the installation of on-shore windfarms on the highest mountains. While not against such installations in principle, the body believes certain places should be preserved and for this reason it has argued there should be a ban on them being built on mountains over 2,500 ft in height.

Many of those who like to go walking in the Highlands will agree, although perhaps those ticking off the Grahams (2,000-2,499 ft) might want the mountain embargo to go further.

At present, however, there is no height restriction and the MCoS has argued that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is one of the companies posing the biggest threat. One may therefore imagine the reaction from the mountaineering body when it learned that SSE is to be the sponsor of the 2013 Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.

Not too much imagination is needed, however, with MCoS chief officer David Gibson writing an open letter to Scotland's newspapers in which he described the sponsorship as "a substantial embarrassment to all those involved in the tourism industry and those living in the region". It has called for entrants to the awards to consider a boycott over the issue and suggested the fact SSE is sponsoring the awards in the Year of Natural Scotland adds "insult to injury".

Emphasising that the MCoS is not anti windfarms per se, Mr Gibson said the body has only objected to six per cent of all such applications, including four out of 26 on-shore proposals by SSE.

However, Mr Gibson argued, the proposals at Stronelairg (83 turbines), Dalnessie (27) Glencassley (26) and Bhlaraidh (36) are "examples of SSE's wind farm proposals that would damage our precious mountain assets".

Whether some participants in the awards do withdraw remains to be seen, but the MCoS undoubtedly has plenty of allies in its fight.

One of these is the John Muir Trust, which recently attacked the decision of Highland Council planning officials for "ignoring planning guidance designed to protect our most treasured natural spaces" and raising no objection to the project.

The JMT, MCoS and Scottish Natural Heritage had all come out in opposition to the plans, but without effect. It may be that a boycott of an award ceremony will have a greater impact.ADNFCR-2803-ID-801528695-ADNFCR