Trust call for genuinely independent study into wind farms and tourism

Calls for genuinely independent research as new paper rebuts a study of industrial scale wind farms on tourism in wild land areas

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The Trust has called for a genuinely independent study on the impact of industrial scale wind farms on tourism in rural communities and wild land areas, disputing a recent paper which claimed that wind farms don’t impact on tourism.

Douglas Wynn, former academic and senior consultant and recently elected John Muir Trust Trustee, has produced a critique of a report by Biggar Economics - a commercial agency which includes several energy companies amongst its client list. The critique identifies key problems in the methodology used in Biggar’s report ‘Wind farms and tourism trends in Scotland’.

The critical appraisal highlights that the report:

  • focusses only on the correlation between wind farm construction and operation with employment trends – ignoring other major influences such as currency fluctuations or post 2007/8 recovery;
  • uses a short and selective timeframe, ending in 2013 though official figures are available for 2014.   If 2009 to 2014 had been used instead, stated employment growth across Scotland would have been much lower than the 2009-2013 figures and would not support the Biggar conclusions;
  • includes spending by local and business people in hotels, restaurants and other sectors which is classed as ‘tourism-characteristic’ activities, though statistics professionals agree this ‘non-visitor’ spend will be at least 50% of the total;
  • includes the large urban tourism sector in the all-Scotland figures when the contentious issue is impacts on nature and landscape tourism in rural and remote areas;

The Trust recognises that renewable energy is required to tackle climate change while meeting national energy needs but would like to see a fair balance struck based on robust evidence that also protects our wildest places – themselves often an important source of natural carbon storage in peat land as well as a local and national asset for the economy.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust said, “NGOs and the public should not be distracted or dissuaded from being able to critique a report and highlight its shortcomings, especially when that report may be used as ‘evidence’ when decisions on industrial scale wind farms that will affect rural communities and wild land areas are being made.”

 Biggar Economics provides contracted services to several clients within the energy sector, and is often called to public local enquiries to present evidence on developers’ behalf.

 McDade said, “There has never been a genuinely impartial investigation into the impact of wind farms on tourism. We would welcome independent research into the subject rather than leaving these studies in the hands of organisations with vested interests on either side of the debate.”

The Biggar Economics report is available here while Douglas Wynn’s critical appraisal  is available here