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Rural alliance in row over wind farms

A Europe-WIDE body that campaigns against the wind farm industry has accused the Scottish Countryside Alliance of "betrayal" for appearing to side with big business and landowners in a pro-onshore wind "manifesto".

Susan Crosthwaite, UK spokeswoman for the European Platform Against Windfarms, said she was "very surprised" by the stance taken by the group, which describes itself as "the voice of the countryside", promoting the interests of rural communities and businesses.

The publication of the Countryside Alliance document comes days after a survey by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland which found that two-thirds (67%) of respondents agreed that the proliferation of wind farms was deterring visitors to Scotland's rural areas, and damaging the economy.

The document, described as a "declaration of our views, motives and intentions", lays out the group's position on issues such as broadband coverage, fuel prices, land management, food and farming, hunting, shooting and fishing. It contains an endorsement of the Scottish Government's 2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland, which it said, "reflects the challenge of the new target to meet an equivalent of 100% demand for electricity from renewable energy by 2020, as well as a target of 11% for renewable heat".

The manifesto advocates monitoring and enforcing an assured support mechanism for large-scale renewables so it will deliver the renewables needed to achieve the targets.

It also "encourages" [landowner] take-up of the Feed In Tariffs introduced to replace UK Government grants and suggests these are regularly reviewed to ensure the rates are attractive enough "to support the take-up of small-scale renewable power by households and community initiatives".

The spokeswoman said: "This is a betrayal by the Countryside Alliance. This new manifesto suggests they now have a lot of landowner and farmer members who are interested in wind farm development for their own personal gain. They are putting this consideration above their self-declared duty to preserve the countryside for future generations. Wind farms are hugely divisive for Scotland's fragile rural communities, setting neighbour against neighbour. It is very odd that a document like this does not reflect that."

She added: "The entire Forestry Commission estate of Scotland has been divided up between developers and leased to the developers and instead of protecting forests for themselves and as breeding ground for birds they are being gradually destroyed, really, by the wind farm development."

Crosthwaite also said the erection of turbines in forestry land and the pouring of their concrete bases was damaging the natural "carbon sink". She also alleged the concrete contaminated watercourses, damaging fish stocks in angling rivers, citing the River Nith in Dumfriesshire.

Jamie Coleman, Scottish spokesman for the Countryside Alliance, confirmed that the body was taking a more supportive stance on wind energy than previously, but denied it was offering blanket support to the industry.

"We're not coming up with a wholesale campaign to promote wind farms," he said. "We are saying that renewable energy is the way forward and that by supporting and working with rural communities to achieve that we are helping support the rural economy.

"We do have caveats that they need to be the right wind farm in the right area."

Asked why the manifesto, which stressed the need for the Scottish planning system to "be inclusive of local people's views" did not otherwise qualify support for wind development, he said it was because of the requirement of the document to be concise.

In its "position summary" the Countryside Alliance said: "We support Scotland's landowners' quest for an assured support mechanism for large-scale renewables so they can deliver the level and variety needed on time to achieve renewable energy target by 2020; and further seek to reinforce this with additional policies, such as research, development and demonstration funding to ensure new offshore wind, wave and tidal power technologies are brought to market quicker."

Founded in 2008, the European Platform Against Windfarms claims to include 666 organisations from 24 countries. Based in the Republic of Ireland, its management board contains scientists, health professionals, environmentalists and tourism specialists.

A spokeswoman for the group Scotland Against Spin said: "The Countryside Alliance's section on renewables makes for chilling reading, especially the call for even more Government support.

"Some large landowners see wind farms as not just a get-rich-quick scheme but a subsidy cow to beat all subsidy cows. This has nothing to do with looking after our landscape, wildlife and environment, or ensuring the future viability of rural communities.

"Instead, it means permanently degraded landscapes and ecologies, and reduced amenity for local residents and visitors, with its knock-on effects of loss in residential property value and tourist revenue, a general blight on other development."

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Agriculture

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