The Press and Journal devoted three pages to the protest, indicating the depth of feeling on the issue in the North East. The campaign has been given an added impetus by a map released by Scottish Natural Heritage chronicling the full extent of planned and existing wind farms in Scotland today.
Protesters say the map (inset) reveals a country being invaded by forests of ugly, disruptive and inefficient turbines and a Scottish Government indifferent to the few who live alongside them.
As the party prepared for a speech from First Minister Alex Salmond, stuffed with praise for Scotland’s renewables revolution, Holyrood spoke to several of the protesters at the entrance to the Eden Court Theatre complex, and found a determined and articulate bunch composed of local groups from all over rural Scotland. One woman, pointing to the theatre, explained that as a former activist she had been “in there” year-in, year-out until the party’s energy policies forced her into this unlikely position.
The arguments were hardly new but confidently made. Wind farms, they said, are being thrown up around Scotland despite little or no consultation with nearby communities. These unwanted turbines push up energy bills and damage wildlife.
And while some protesters offered ‘nimby’- style complaints of ruined vistas and an irritating hum, many calmly reiterated that the technology is simply too unreliable and expensive to depend on.
Whether out of damage limitation or a commendable willingness to engage with the other side of the argument, a number of SNP MSPs and activists made time to speak with the protesters and present the party’s case.
Rob Gibson, the Convener of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee and MSP for the vast Caithness, Sutherland and Ross constituency, spent 15 minutes debating with the group. Later on, Fergus Ewing, Energy Minister and local MSP, met with a representation from the protesters, discussing their concerns and promising to maintain a dialogue including further meetings. The SNP hopes technological advances will mean the development of offshore wind and marine energy will rebalance its renewables policy away from the onshore projects that caused all the disquiet, but with the number of wind farms already in the pipeline, it is unlikely this issue will be going away any time soon.