More than half of Scotland’s landscape is visually affected by giant wind
turbines, according to fresh research.
In 1995, about 1% of the countryside was affected by turbines, meaning they
could only be seen in a tiny fraction of rural areas. Academics now believe
the figure stands at 53%, amid warnings that plans for a new breed of a
”super turbine” – standing more than 200m high – will be be visible from
The rapid expansion of onshore wind, fuelled by lucrative public subsidies,
is laid bare in a video produced by researchers at the University of Leeds.
It shows how turbines form the backdrop to great swathes of wild land.
Critics of wind farms claim that ministers have avoided publishing a
similar map since 2014 for fear of a public backlash. ‘It is a disgrace
that the government and its agencies are not mapping or monitoring visual
impact at a national level’, said Lyndsey Ward, a wind farm critic. ‘Is
this a deliberate attempt to keep the public blissfully unaware?’
The map by Leeds University suggests that just under 38,000 sq km of
Scotland is unaffected by turbines — about 47% of the country’s land mass.
Now, turbines of about 200m in height are in the pipeline, and Paul
Wheelhouse, the energy minister, has been accused of hypocrisy.
In July 2012, Ward wrote to Wheelhouse – who was not a minister at tthe
time – protesting about plans for 149m-high turbines near Inverness.
Wheelhouse wrote: ‘I am concerned that the turbines are of an unacceptably
The proposal, by Druim Ba Sustainable Energy, was rejected by ministers.
In December 2017, Wheelhouse unveiled plans for ‘bigger, more efficient’
turbines to reach a target of generating half of Scotland’s power from
renewables by 2050.
Ministers are considering a proposal for a 50-turbine extension to the
Sanquhar wind farm in Dumfries and Galloway. Most would be 200m high.
Scottish Power is considering 200m turbines at Clauchrie forest, in South
Nicola Sturgeon indicated last week that carpeting the countryside with
wind turbines had failed to create enough green jobs. The first minister
said more needs to be done to create employment in renewable energy as she
came under fire from trade unions for ‘broken promises’ on the low-carbon
and green economy. A Scottish Trades Union Congress report found a fall in
jobs in the onshore wind sector, with the total down by 400 between 2014
Stephen Carver, from Leeds University’s Wildland Research Institute, said:
‘Renewables are essential to address climate change but we need to protect
our landscapes too. It is about the right turbine in the right place’.
A Scottish government spokeswoman said ‘clear policies’ ensure wind farms
are developed in appropriate locations, adding that planning policy
provides additional protection for national parks and scenic areas.
Addressing accusations of hypocrisy against Wheelhouse, she said:
‘Fundamental changes to the financial environment for onshore wind since
2015, including the removal by UK ministers of any subsidy to new projects,
has caused developers to look to use taller, more efficient turbines to
ensure projects remain commercially viable. Our onshore wind policy sets
out [guidance] on use of such turbines and that some landscapes may not be
suitable for these’.