SCOTLAND’S future path will be decided in September but the independence debate doesn’t seem to be adversely affecting the value of our land.
The Auch and Invermearan estate in Perthshire is the latest to be snapped up, selling for £11 million. The 28,300-acre estate has farming, fishing and stalking but perhaps the most significant factor is the scope for hydro-electric schemes - 15 to be precise.
One has already been commissioned and it is estimated it will generate around £250,000 a year. It’s easy to see that energy schemes are the new gold rush. The old adage that money flows to money has never been more true. Overseas investors are particularly keen to stake their claim when they see the money being doled out from government for hydro and wind farm projects.
I’m not against wind farms per se, but the seemingly haphazard regulations which ride roughshod over local objections need to be addressed. Providing a blank cheque for every hand that is held out is going to prove a very expensive exercise.
New bulldozed tracks seem to be springing with worrying frequency all over the place, horrid scars that can be seen for miles away. Some make a mockery of planning rules, and it would appear there is a lack of appetite by government or local councils to clamp down, whether through cost or, dare I say it, a fear of upsetting some landowners.
The pace of the energy boom is astonishing, and nowhere seems to be off limits. It was encouraging to see some protection agreed recently over any development in our wild lands, but read the small print and you will see it is not the solution. There is still a lot of work to do.
On a recent visit to Corrour estate to climb Beinn Eibhinn and Aonach Beag, I was surprised to see the scale of work going on to insert two small dams on the waters of the Uisge Labhair.
There was no access restriction but the usually quiet approach track and path had been replaced by a newly laid road and there were huge lorries and diggers trundling up and down and lots of churned up ground. It may well be the ground will be restored to full health after the work is finished but judging by past experience I'm not holding my breath.
Similarly on the Kinloch Hourn road in Glen Quoich, huge swathes of greenery have been hacked and bulldozed away and tracks laid for more hydro work. What used to be a beautifully aesthetic approach to the mountains Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach now has a series of ugly scars clearly visible on the way up and down.
The road in to Loch Arkaig has always been a wild ride, a vomit-inducing rollercoaster which twists and turns at almost impossible angles at times. Incredibly it’s even worse at the moment.
When I was in here four years ago, it had been improved and relaid for much of its length. But a journey last week to do the Sgurr na Ciche hills saw the need to slow down to a virtual stop at times to bump over huge holes in the road, and parts of the verges had collapsed completely. I suppose it’s inevitable when it is now being used by huge logging lorries.
Part of the price of progress and modern needs I know, but we can only hope that a sensible balance is restored before our wild places are devastated beyond repair.
(First published Daily Record, July 3, 2104)