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Wind turbines threaten to become a blot on the landscape of Scott and Stevenson

By Paul Kelbie, Scotland Correspondent

07 March 2005

Scotland's literary landscape is under threat. From the rolling hills of the Borders, that inspired Sir Walter Scott, to the majestic wilderness and mountain peaks described by Robert Louis Stevenson and others - the lie of the land which influenced some of the country's most famous works could be altered for ever.

Anti-wind farm campaigners claim plans for more than 6,000 turbines to be built across the country threaten to damage the unique scenery that has influenced a host of writers, artists and poets.

A report by the Scottish Wind Assessment Project (Swap), which represents a consortium of businesses and landowners concerned at the proliferation of turbines, claims there are plans for more than 250 wind farms across Scotland from the Highlands to the Borders.

Among the most controversial are plans to erect thirteen 400ft turbines at Broadmeadows, four miles from Selkirk and close to the Southern Upland Way, which will be clearly visible from Scott's View - the Border region's most famous beauty spot near Dryburgh.

Although he was born in Edinburgh, Sir Walter Scott made his home in the Borders and, through his collection of romantic and bloodthirsty stories, which he published in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border between 1802 and 1803, he helped to redefine Scotland's popular image. His connections with the area have helped create a thriving tourist industry and the Scottish Borders Tourist Board is concerned that wind farm plans will compromise the picture-postcard image that has been used to sell the region around the world for decades.

Officials fear the continual development of more wind farms in such a highly attractive and sensitive part of southern Scotland could result in the region becoming little more than a wind factory instead of a popular tourist destination.

"The landscape of the Borders is crucially important to one of the most important industries in the area and while the existing approved wind farm developments are acceptable, more developments in areas which are closely visible to the majority of visitors would be very detrimental," said a spokesman for the tourist board.

Other literary heroes have strong connections with the Borders, such as James Hogg, best known for his Confessions of a Justified Sinner, who was born in the Ettrick Valley, and John Buchan, author of The Thirty Nine Steps, who was the son of a Broughton clergyman.

"Many tourists come to Scotland, particularly from North America, to see the places and the scenery they have read about," said Gillian Bishop, spokeswoman for the renewable energy group Views of Scotland. "Blighting 'literary' views with wind turbines will threaten the tourism which is often the life-blood of rural economies."

The Scottish Executive has promised to generate 40 per cent of Scotland's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 as part of its efforts to tackle climate change.

The daughter of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, one of Scotland's best-known writers, has spoken out against plans to build ten 330ft turbines on St John's Hill in Aberdeenshire overlooking the region where her father set many of his novels.

Rhea Martin said the development, only a few hundred yards of Grassic Gibbon's former home, could "irrevocably alter" the landscape of the Howe of the Mearns which formed the backdrop of the Scots Quair trilogy.

"A lot of landscapes which have inspired generations of painters and writers are in danger of being lost because of the rush to build these gigantic turbines."