Windfarms, Alex Salmond and Independence

Time and time again I see the same themes in many of the attacks against the wind developments which are despoiling our landscape here in Scotland. “It’s all Alex Salmond’s fault”, and by extension it’s the SNP that are to blame and that if we get rid of the SNP we’ll live in a green and pleasant turbine free land. There are regularly letters in the outdoor media and the national press which follow this line of reasoning, and it’s a theme I have picked up on, especially in the lead up to the referendum on Scottish independence. I believe in an independent Scotland and I’m also passionately against wind farms, as is TGO magazines former editor Cameron McNeish. There are those who are just as passionately against windfarms who support a No vote, and who would seek to capitalise on one issue to aid the other.

In a study by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland it was shown that the media, in the main the BBC, had a propensity to personalise issues within the context of the referendum debate, but only in relation to Alex Salmond. Pro union stories were generally headlined as “Better Together says…” while anything from the Yes campaign was generally labelled “Salmond says…” This shoddy and biased journalism is designed to reinforce stereotypes. Salmond: bad. Unionism: good. While attacking Alex Salmond and the SNP repeatedly and loudly, it fails to ask any questions at all from any of the parties which make up the No side as what their plans as regards renewables are.

In December 2013 the unelected House of Lords voted to remove the Scottish Parliament’s powers over renewable energy by way of amendment 54 to the Energy Act 2013. This gave the UK Government a free hand to completely bypass the Scottish Government and in July 2014 they announced a free for all on licences for fracking, something the Scottish Government was categorically against. Even national parks weren’t kept off the target list. The Scottish Wild Land Core Map, which the Scottish Government had agreed to respect was bypassed at a stroke, and there isn’t a thing that can be done about it. While it was still to be seen if the Scottish Government would keep their word, there can be no doubt about what Westminster has done. It has stuck two fingers up to the people of Scotland, and said that if our legislation is a stumbling block to the UK national policy then they shall scrap it. Quite how this equates with more powers after a No vote I’m not sure.

Which brings me back to the Unionist parties and their intentions. With the Tories and the Lib-Dems both supporting “respectful fracking”, the Lib Dems and Labour supporting more wind turbines, and the Conservatives vowing to scrap onshore windfarms in future while supporting them today, it seems as clear as crystal that on examination there is absolutely no likelihood that a No vote in the independence referendum or a change of Scottish Government from the SNP with end the industrialisation of our wild places. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the order of the day where renewables is concerned.

I truly believe that the battle against windfarms has been lost. There are no doubt victories still to be had. Small windfarms with a good amount of reasonable objection, grounded in fact, can be defeated. I know this, because I have helped defeat such developments. But the larger developments, and these are generally the ones which occupy larger areas, are harder nuts to crack, and due to the sheer amount of money involved are likely to succeed. Should Scotland vote No in the forthcoming referendum it will be a signal to Westminster, not for more powers for Scotland, but to draw more power from Scotland. The National Planning Act which applies to England and Wales could quite easily be extended to cover Scotland. If we currently have any safeguards in Scotland against development they can be removed by Westminster to fall in line with those south of the border, and which will make a presumption in favour of large developments which are deemed in the national interest, the HS2 rail link being a case in point. Our own system is by no means perfect, but at least we had some mechanisms of protest, if not prevention.

We need to protect this system just as strongly as we would like the wild land itself to be protected, and that will not be be done by trying to confuse the issue for short term gain.

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I’m Spartacus

The Talladh-a-Bheithe windfarm will be visible from Ben Alder.

The Talladh-a-Bheithe windfarm will be visible from Ben Alder.

 

 

It’s almost 100 years since Scottish environmentalist John Muir died. The Father of the US National Park movement, he would have been appalled at the destructive behaviour of both the Scottish and UK Governments. The UK government has just announced a free for all on fracking, and Central Scotland is bang in its sights. Anyone who has travelled up the A9 can’t help but notice the march of the super-pylons. Had the Scottish Government the backbone to stand up to the energy companies, these power lines could have been buried, at least in the more sensitive areas such as the Cairngorms. That was hardly likely to happen though, when they have already approved wind-farms in some of our most scenic areas across the country despite massive protests. Where many see wildness and beauty, the Scottish Government sees a business opportunity. The latest in a long line of business opportunities is the Talladh-a-Bheithe windfarm, at the south end of Loch Ericht, near Loch Rannoch. Consisting of 24 turbines, access roads and ancillaries, the development lies within Area 14 of the Map of Wild land, prepared by Scottish Natural Heritage and adopted by the Scottish Government. It borders area 10 and will be visible from and estimated 54 Munros.

 

By any reasonable process this would fall at the first hurdle. It’s designated wild land, surely to be protected. Were it doomed to fail, surely the developers would not even bother in the first place? The fact that they have applied to build this speaks volumes. For that reason we must also speak in volume. Time is running out to object, 5th August is the closing date, but every valid objection counts. Should the Scottish Government not ensure that this development is rejected then their commitment to protect wild land will be seen to fail at the first hurdle, and following on from the Stronelairg winfarm being given the green light this is a distinct possibility.

 

Those campaigning against independence may seek to use this as a reason to attack independence and/or Alex Salmond, indeed there is a letter broadly referring to this in the August issue of TGO magazine. Yet a change of government or a rejection of independence will not be enough to stop developments like this stone dead. An amendment to the 2006 Planning Act Scotland, surprisingly submitted by the Green Party, allowing third party right of appeals against windfarms was rejected by a coalition of Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems. In the long term EVERY main party (and the Lib Dems) are committed to greener, cleaner energy, and damn anything that gets in the way. We cannot afford to wait for a referendum or an election, we have to ensure that whoever is in power respects the SNH Wild Land map, because once wild land is gone it is gone forever. 

 

John Muir once said “These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.”

 

Was he a visionary, ahead of his time or just a very good judge of governments of whatever hue? We could certainly do with a man such as him leading the fight today. In his absence it falls to us to do what he would have done.

 

Full details of the windfarm are at

www.keeprannochwild.org.uk and at the John Muir Trust at http://www.jmt.org/news.asp?s=2&cat=Campaigning&nid=JMT-N10943.

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Glasgow HF Outdoor Club

HFLogoI am a member of Glasgow HF Outdoor Club, and we have moved our website onto a new platform. Our old one was a bit dated, but this one is new and shiny! It’s at our usual address- http://www.glasgowhf.co.uk

New members are always welcome.

Also, if you are thinking of buying some shiny new gear, have a look at our discounts.

Free Tiso card- gets 10% off at any Tiso.

15% off at Cotswolds, Partick

Plus quite a few more. They are all listed on our website at http://www.glasgowhf.co.uk

Great value for £10 (email programme) or £15 (printed programme) per year.

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At last- Lancet Edge

It can be frustrating trying to organise a weekend away, especially with other people. Times, transport, tents and more have to be coordinated. I had volunteered to lead a series of walks over two days in the Culra Bothy area with Glasgow HF Outdoor Club. No sooner had the programme gone to print than the devastating news broke that the bothy had been found to contain asbestos, and was closed, except for emergency use. A few club members had been interested in attending, but had to drop out in the run up, leaving one confirmed, plus a few guests. To put the cherry on top, not only had me knee flared up, but my back had decided to come out in sympathy.

Full trip report here: At last- Lancet Edge.

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Leven To Elie (Fife Coastal path) and Chain Walk

Davidd and Robert, followed by Jamie's MCofS group

David and Robert, followed by Jamie’s MCofS group

Just over thirty of us headed up to Fife on the coach, and three walks were to take place, a shorter walk from Largo to Elie, and two longer walks of around 10 miles from Leven to Elie. I was leading one of these which was to include Scotland’s Via Ferrata, the Elie Chain Walk. Even though I was leading this I had never walked the whole way, having only did sections at either end. The short section from Dumbarnie Links to the start of the Chain Walk was to me, as yet a mystery.

Full walk report here: Leven To Elie (Fife Coastal path) and Chain Walk.

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BMC Citystreamer CS01 XT Hybrid Bike Review

BMC Bike (14)It became apparent late last year that my old hybrid bike. It was starting to squeek and groan to such an extent that earplugs were looked at to wear while riding it.

I decided to take advantage of the Cycle To Work scheme, which allows you to pick up a bike and save on the tax. One bike which had caught my eye was the BMC Citystreamer. A traditional style frame, no suspension and a luggage carrier ticked all the boxes for me. With all the paperwork done I had a short wait then I could collect it.

Full review HERE

 

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Back in the Chain Gang.

I’ve not been out and about much these last few months. I did manage a wee walk last month, back to The Fara at Dalwhinnie. I didn’t think I’d have any use for the winter gear at all after my knee injury, so it was a great feeling to be up high and in the snow. I opted for the straight up and down route this time, playing it safe with my knee, and all went well. Strong winds saw me digging a snow scrape and coorieing doon to get the stove going. It’s surprising just how enjoyable that can be.

Since then it’s been mostly positive, with the odd setback. A few painful days here and there, and I have to be careful about not overdoing things.

Next week sees me leading my first walk of the year for Glasgow HF Outdoor Club, Leven to Elie on the Fife Coastal path. This will include the Chain Walk. New members to the club are always welcome, and the coach is a very reasonable £10.

 

 

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