WIND farms have no impact on the number of people employed in the tourism industry where they are built, a study has found.

The research, published by BiGGAR Economics, looked at 18 wind farm sites across Scotland and examined the number of people employed in tourism in the local area before and after they were developed.

It found some of the local authority areas with the greatest growth in tourism employment also saw the greatest rise in onshore wind installations.

The report's findings undermine criticisms of windfarms for driving down tourism made by the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and, more recently, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon.

The American writer, whose popular fantasy book were made into a worldwide TV blockbuster, spoke out earlier this week saying that “If you go around screwing up your landscape, that’s certainly going to screw up your tourism.”

Ms Gabaldon has previously voiced objections against a planned wind farm near Loch Rannoch, where scenes for a television adaptation of her popular novels were filmed.

She has urged anti-windfarm campaigners to continue their fight against developments in wild land.

However, between 2009 and 2013, the level of employment in tourism in Scotland increased by almost 11 per cent during a time when the onshore wind sector in Scotland was growing rapidly.

In the majority of areas studied, sustainable tourism employment performed better in areas surrounding wind farms than in the wider local authority area.

Graeme Blackett, Director of BiGGAR Economics and report author, said: “Both renewable energy and tourism have been identified by the Scottish Government as key growth sectors, and therefore it is important to identify if there are any detrimental effects to one from the development of the other.

“What this study shows is that there is no relationship between the growth in the onshore wind sector and growth in the tourism sector.

“While this is just one piece of research, it is the first that has looked systematically at the situation before and after wind farms have been developed, and it clearly demonstrates that renewable energy and tourism can co-exist in a modern Scotland.”

Analysis of the Business Register and Employment Survey, produced by the Office of National Statistics, found that there were 211,215 jobs in sustainable tourism in 2013.

Figures from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills in the same year showed renewable energy supports 21,000 jobs in Scotland, 5,400 of which were in onshore wind.

Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said that her group's own research showed that roads and paths builty to facilitate wind farm development actually encouraged people to make their way into the hills.

She said: "This research joins the growing body of evidence that clearly shows there is no negative impact on the tourism industry from the development of onshore wind.

"In fact, the study found that employment in tourism in the majority of areas immediately surrounding wind farms grew faster than in the wider local authority areas where they were situated.

"Last year Scottish Renewables found that more than 13,000 miles had been covered by runners and cyclists alone on infrastructure tracks installed for wind farms and hydropower schemes."

She added: "Today's new figures demonstrate once again that the well-documented economic and environmental benefits of green energy go hand in hand with significant social benefits."