Viking threat to tourism (Allen Fraser letter)

A YouGov poll specifically commissioned to assess the public’s attitude to wild land and wind farms has just been published. This shows clearly that all across Britain the public favour the protection of wild land over the building of large industrial wind farms.

The conservation organisation, the John Muir Trust, who commissioned the poll, states that: “This is the first national poll to measure the level of public support for large scale wind farms in our valuable natural landscapes. It is also the first poll to gauge the potential impact on tourism in areas like the Scottish Highlands, where large scale wind projects have been built or are in the pipeline. Previous polls have sought only to measure general support for wind power. However, the Trust believes that it’s possible to support wind power while opposing the building of turbines on important areas of wild land.”

The poll also indicates that high concentrations of wind farms would pose a serious threat to tourism in Britain’s scenic areas. It found that 43 per cent of people in Britain who visit scenic areas in the UK for their natural heritage and beauty would be “less likely to visit scenic areas with a large concentration of wind farms”. The chairman of the John Muir Trust says: “This poll suggests that up to 17.5 million adults across the Britain may think twice about visiting areas where the landscape is blighted by turbines. That represents a serious long-term threat to those areas whose economic lifeblood is tourism.”

A high proportion of our tourists come to Shetland as part of their visit to Britain (or Scotland) and what affects those areas will also affect Shetland. There is no doubt that the proliferation of wind farms across scenic areas will be devastating to tourism across the whole of Britain and Shetland is a microcosm of this. The findings of this new poll are entirely consistent with analysis of the demographic of the Shetland poll commissioned by the SIC (2006) and more general VisitScotland (2012) poll that I addressed in my letter of 26th April 2012. In this I stated that “Potentially Viking Energy could lose us 43 per cent of our tourist trade.”

As it stands at the moment the Viking Energy clusters of wind farms to be spread across Central Mainland are not an economically viable proposition because they cannot generate enough electricity to warrant an interconnector cable. Despite this, Viking Energy (funded by over £6 million of Shetland Charitable Trust money) is pressing ahead with the project. From this it follows that there will have to be an extension to the Viking Project and/or building of other wind farms across the rest of Shetland. Because the Viking Project is a SIC committed project in all but name, the SIC are now in a position that they will have no option other than to recommend the approval of planning consents for a proliferation of wind farm clusters across the rest of Shetland.

In pressing ahead with the Viking project and the likely destruction of almost half of Shetland’s tourism industry the SIC/SCT are acting against the stated aims and strands agreed within the Shetland Tourism Plan 2011-2014. The opening statement of this plan states: ‘The central ambition of the tourism sector in Shetland is to grow and increase its absolute contribution to Shetland’s economy. To achieve this we can increase the overall total visitor numbers’.

The value of tourism to the Shetland economy is about equivalent to the value of the white fish industry. If some action of the SIC/SCT posed the same threat to our fishing industry as it does with the Viking Project to our tourism providers it would be totally unacceptable to that industry. Viking Energy state that they are not prepared to compensate householders for loss of property value or for noise disturbance so I can assume that they will not be compensating tourism providers for loss of income.

In Orkney where proliferation of wind farms is now a major problem a well established tourism business was up for sale this year and remains unsold. Of the two established Shetland tour businesses that were up for sale in the last year only one was bought after being advertised for two years. With the Viking threat still hanging over Shetland it comes as no surprise that no-one is committing to investment in tourism provision and the Shetland Tourism Plan is dead in the water.

The John Muir Trust findings and poll analysis can be found at

The Shetland Tourism Plan 2011-2014 can be found at

Allen Fraser

Shetland Geotours

Meal, Hamnavoe.


Add Your Comment
  • Hamish Stafford

    • November 5th, 2012 19:00

    “However, the Trust believes that it’s possible to support wind power while opposing the building of turbines on important areas of wild land”

    This is what Salmond and his colleagues have forced things like the JMT to become. If the JMT say, as they certainly should, that turbines should not be built on the land at all, then they will be branded dinosaurs by ignorant politicians and misinformed eco-people and lose much of their funding. But by partially supporting them they are betraying the vast majority of normal people; those who live off and enjoy the nonindustrial landscape. All wild land is important; it doesn’t matter if it’s in guide books or not.

  • Alistair Jones

    • November 5th, 2012 23:54

    The SNPs modern day Darien Scheme; this is truly scary. If the £1 billion+ Western Isles Cable gets the green light Scotland via four or so rolls of a dice could be in a devastatingly tricky situation.

  • Colin Hunter

    • November 28th, 2012 22:09

    Tourists only come for about four months of the year. The wind blows nearly all the time. I for one, have little interest in traipsing over the Lang Kames as they stand. I have seen them from the air while flying in and out of Scatsta, and they are pretty barren and uninspiring. Unlike some other places such as the hills of the south mainland and North Unst, which are easily accessible thanks to the efforts of the MOD over the years. As an Engineer, I appreciate technology, and if a windfarm were built, I would hope it would incorporate a visitors centre, such as ose at many other developments, such as the Forth road bridge and Ben Cruachan Hydro scheme, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. If such a centre were built, I wouldn’t mind betting it would attract visitors, rather than putting them off. I, and many other people I know, actually find wind turbines pleasing to look at and relish the coming of the wind farm.

  • Johan Adamson

    • November 29th, 2012 11:31

    Why would you come all the way to Shetland to see a windfarm when there is probably one on your doorstep? I think visitors to Shetland have tended to be nature loving and able and willing to traips the Kames. I thought the Kames was a barren road too until I lived away and have now come to appreciate the beauty of the space and the value of having unspoilt areas which are being lost daily to housing and industry

  • David Spence

    • December 21st, 2012 17:12

    The short minded, short thinking capitalists don’t give a hoot to any damage they do to the environment or eco systems as long as they make their quick buck regardless. Viking Energy doesn’t really care about Shetland in terms of its negative impact. All they care about is using the islands as a means of getting rich for themselves and the selfish, greedy share holders who back them. As for Shetland benefiting from such a project, to say it is a joke would be an understatement, based on the overall projected cost to the return, which will, probably, not be for another 10 years or more, if at all. Any person who cares more about themselves and the profit they may be making as a consequence of this project should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for being a Shetlander……..or a greed orientated capitalist.


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