THE writer behind the popular Outlander books and television series has branded plans to build a wind farm near a loch as a "tragedy" and a "disaster".

Author Diana Gabaldon's comments came as she joined objectors to building the turbines in the wilderness near Loch Rannoch, where scenes from the hit show were filmed.

Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Eventus BV, wants to build 24 turbines, each 410ft high, on designated wild land in Perthshire between Loch Rannoch and Loch Ericht.

However, the plans have been severely criticised by environmental groups and campaigners, including the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS), the John Muir Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage, which says the proposal could affect "natural heritage interests of national importance".

MSPs are due to debate the application in the Scottish Parliament today.

Ms Gabaldon's novels feature the adventures of Second World War nurse Claire Randall, who is transported back to the Scotland of 1743.

They have been adapted for a 16-part television series that has attracted millions of viewers in America and features much-admired locations across Scotland. Stars of the series have appeared in a promotional video praising the beauty of the Scottish countryside and describing Loch Rannoch as a favourite location.

The US-based author said: "Light bulbs need energy; human souls need wildness and beauty.

"While I appreciate the need for sustainable energy development, I very much oppose such a project on Rannoch Moor.

"While I am a novelist and film consultant, I was in my previous career an ecologist, and in all three of those roles, I would view the potential loss of Rannoch Moor's unique wilderness ecosystem as a tragedy, a disaster that would not be worth any amount of extra kilowattage."

MCofS says the development would affect views from more than 30 Munros (mountains over 3000ft) and Corbetts (those over 2500ft), including Schiehallion, the Ben Alder massif, mountains above Glen Lyon, the Drumochter Hills and Buachaille Etive Mor.

More than 1,000 objections have also been registered from the public, while tour companies in the area have also criticised the plan.

David Gibson, MCofS chief officer, said: "Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novels are loved in part because they capture the beauty and wildness of the Highlands.

"The immense success of her TV series shows how much people value our open landscapes and offer further evidence as to why we must not ruin what remains of our wild lands by turning them into industrial zones.

"Such places are at the heart of Scotland's cultural identity and history and essential for our recreation, well-being and enjoyment. In economic terms, they are vital for film and tourism industries."

Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, added: "This proposal could be damaging to Scotland's international image. This development threatens to turn one of Scotland's most famed landscapes into a semi- industrial landscape.

"I am all for sensitively sited low carbon energy, but you really could not dream up a worse place to put a massive wind farm in Scotland.

"With Scotland's reputation for stunning landscapes at stake, I hope and expect our MSPs to stand up for wild Rannoch, Scotland's image abroad and the future of our tourist industry in today's debate.

"This is a real test case for the Government's recent commitment to protect our wildest landscapes. MSPs need to give a clear cross-party commitment to upholding the principles of the new planning policy and Wild Land Areas map, which recognise the huge role played by Scotland's wild land to our quality of life, our national identity and the visitor economy."

Talladh-a-Bheithe Wind Farm Ltd was unavailable for comment.