Around 1,600 trees a day are being cut down to make way for ever-increasing numbers of wind turbines.
Five wind farms alone have resulted in millions of trees being axed – flying in the face of a Scottish Government commitment to plant 25,000 acres of trees every year to help meet climate targets.
The figures, from Forestry and Land Scotland, have led to warnings that the country has reached ‘saturation point’ for onshore wind, with turbines posing a growing threat to the landscape.
Iain Milligan, spokesman for campaign group Save Our Hills, said: ‘It’s hard to see how any well-thought-through environmental policy could result in the felling of millions of trees.
‘Trees play a huge role in keeping the air clean and will do so increasingly as the UK moves towards net zero [emissions]. So quite why so many have to be cut down to make way for unpopular and damaging wind farms is a mystery. It’s time for the Government to start looking at alternatives.
‘We understand renewables are important but so is Scotland’s unique landscape.’
Many applications by developers are rejected by councils, in the face of local opposition, but then approved on appeal to the Government.
It emerged last week that there are plans to build the world’s tallest wind farm at New Cumnock, Ayrshire. The 850ft turbines will be twice the size of Scotland’s tallest building, the Glasgow Tower.
Scots Tory rural economy spokesman Jamie Halcro Johnston said: ‘Too many communities feel local landscapes have become saturated with wind farms, with Ministers refusing to listen to local views.
‘They have often boasted about how many trees have been planted in recent years but they can’t be complacent. There must be a balance between enhancing the woodland environment and achieving the SNP’s desire for more wind farms.’ The Government insisted wind farms are vital to the country’s energy mix.
A spokesman said: ‘Last year Scotland planted over 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of new woodlands and forests – a total of 22 million new trees, or around 60,000 new trees a day, and over 80 per cent of all new UK woodland.
‘Trees cut down to accommodate wind farm sites are generally commercial conifers which would have been felled as part of normal forestry activity.’
George Anderson of the Woodland Trust said: ‘In some instances trees have been removed for wind farms and the peatland restored. That is good for biodiversity and carbon capture. Active peat bogs are important carbon sinks.
‘Our concern would be for ancient woodland. Cases where we object to wind farms threatening ancient woods are rare.’