The Moffat report (published in 2008: commissioned by the Scottish Government to investigate the effect of wind turbines on tourism in Scotland, and much quoted by them) warned against lining the M74 and the A9 with wind turbines, as they are the principal tourist arteries into Scotland. The report, as you see, has been ignored: and the M74 is now being viewed by at least some English people as “what we don’t want in England”. The picture above is from the Stop Killington Wind Farm website, and this is how they caption it: “Actual wind turbines in Scotland on the M74 south of Glasgow. Over 200 turbines, continuing for many miles, near Beattock summit. We don’t want the approach to the Lakes and Dales to look like this.”
Perhaps not all Scots realise what is happening either – especially those living on the east side of the country: this is from the Benvironment Blog (read the blog post itself for more): “I drove back home from England yesterday. Once on the M74 I usually come off the motorway at Moffat and take the impossibly scenic drive along down the Tweed Valley to Edinburgh. But yesterday I drove up to the junction with the A702 instead, which takes you through a high-altitude stretch of motorway…….
If you’re not familiar with it, it climbs slowly alongside the west coast railway through a long narrow winding valley. The area is thickly forested and there are no settlements or houses. It is often very wet or very cold….or both…..and though the slopes are wooded it is a bleak and lonely landscape. Eventually the forests give way to the rolling grassy hills of the Clyde Valley.
I always enjoy this stretch. Though by this point you have already travelled through 40 or so miles of Southern Scotland, the bleak, lonely isolation of this stretch feels to me like the perfect introduction to the country and gives a hint of what wonderful landscapes await you. It is empty and remote.
I was stunned this time however, as in the relatively short time I’ve been absent from these parts much of the forest has been felled, and there are what appear to be two wind power stations on either side of the motorway. The turbines aren’t of a modest size, these are huge. Many currently don’t have the blades attached so just look downright eerie standing there, like something out of War of the Worlds. Not least because the forests they’re standing in have been stripped bare.
Because it was so unexpected, it was shocking. It was very sad to see this beautiful little corner of Scotland trashed in this manner. A few miles to the north, off the motorway on the A702 I was depressed to see another wind power station being built in the Clyde Valley. When I started writing this I’d no idea how many turbines are going up, but a bit of digging this afternoon revealed that the M74 turbines will eventually number over 150! It’ll be one of, if not THE biggest wind power station in Europe.
I had the good fortune to go walking in the Lowther Hills (which overlook these new developments) last year and don’t recall seeing ANY power stations in the area. The pace of this change is alarming.”
And so it goes on, rightly weighing up the merits of wind turbines and forestry plantations: read for yourself, and perhaps take a journey down the M74 yourselves to see what is planned for the area around Straiton, and for many other parts of Southern Scotland.
Personally, I like the Windmills and feel that they enhance the otherwise bleak landscape of the M74. It’s a bit late to complain about them spoiling the landscape when there’s already a big wide piece of tarmac ploughed through the scenery. Would you have the M74 replaced by a dirt track?
I also recall people complaining about the unsightly large areas of conifer forest when the Galloway Forest was being planted. Some folk will always be opposed to change, but I’d rather have windmills than the more ugly and dangerous option of places like Hunterston.
I don’t agree with polarising the debate. I don’t like large areas of coniferous forest either (who does?). Nor am I opposed to change. I think the question here, and the question that the Moffat report addresses, is “What impression does large scale wind farm development make on the new arrival in Scotland?” – the tourist who arrives, as the majority do, on the M74. Does it, as Alex Salmond presumably believes, create the impression of a dynamic go-ahead nation ready for the modern era, or does it severely damage the image of Scotland as a scenic destination. It’s an open question. Certainly I think that the perception of Southern Scotland as an attractive destination is one that might well be lost (which if you are a resident of Southern Scotland and dependent on its tourist industry, could reasonably cause you concern). If you arrive in Scotland on the M74 as a tourist, you might well think, “not much point stopping off here then, better press on to the Highlands…” These are important issues and worth debating, whether you favour wind or nuclear or neither.