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.