Energy and Tourism minister defends Scottish Government policy
Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has defended the development of wind farms in Scotland – despite claims from groups they damage tourism.
Speaking to Holyrood as the country prepares itself for the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013 – which will focus on encouraging people to get out and enjoy the many “natural assets” of the nation, he said that there was no evidence to suggest people were being put off visiting.
His comments echoed a report from the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee which said the Government’s targets to produce 100 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 – and that there was no “empirical evidence” to back up claims that wind farms were affecting tourism.
Ewing said: “When I was attending a visit to highlight the Diageo visitor centre numbers, by sheer chance I bumped into a group of tourists from Denmark – guess what they had come to see? Wind turbines. They had come to Scotland to see them. That’s just anecdotal – but then again, a lot of the claims against are anecdotal.”
He added that rural areas were benefiting from the work on building renewable energy generation plants and the business tourism market was being bolstered by renewables, including a huge number of conferences on the various forms of green energy.
He said: “There are tens of thousands of people coming to Scotland because of our lead in renewables. There is very clear evidence that renewables are having a positive, demonstrably positive effect.
“I think what I will do is go with the evidence of my own eyes and ears, my own experience as tourism minister in the responses that I’ve got and that has been overwhelmingly positive.” However, groups including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland still claim that wind farms in the wrong location will have a negative effect.
Chief officer of the group, David Gibson, said: “Tourists will make their mind up. They vote with their feet – they don’t tell you what they are doing, they just don’t come any more and that is a real risk in certain areas of Scotland where there is likely to be a cumulative impact from wind farms. “Scotland is still a great place to come, but I’m saying to people overseas, come to Scotland now if you’re coming but don’t leave it too late.”
The EET committee, which is chaired by Tory, Murdo Fraser, but has a majority of SNP members, concluded that the 100 per cent target for renewable electricity was achievable – although there was a risk the aim of producing 11 per cent of heat demand would not be met.
Its report said issues such as planning, training and access to finance needed to be addressed in order for gains to be made.
Several witness gave evidence on the impact of wind farms, but the report said: “No one has provided the committee with evidence, as opposed to opinion, that tourism is being negatively affected by the development of renewable projects.”
But, it added: “Given the importance of this issue, the committee recommends that VisitScotland and the Scottish Government continue to gather evidence on this from visitors to Scotland.”