Published 3rd March 2019, 14:11

    TWO conversations, two different people, two different occasions, but the sentiments expressed were the same: One round of Munros was enough.

    Both had 'compleated' some 20 years ago but it wasn't lack of energy or fitness holding them back now. They simply felt they had seen the best of the mountain landscape and that any repeat would lead only to disappointment.

    One said she had enjoyed so many magic moments that simply couldn't be replicated. But the other said she felt like weeping at the devastation that is being carried out on our wild lands. She just couldn't face going back to many of her well-loved places.

    I'm sure those wandering the mountains 20 years earlier would have argued the same case. The old days always seem better, especially when viewed through rose-tinted glasses. But it's hard to argue with her assertion. There seems to be no end to the madness. It's as if everyone in any position of power has given up trying to protect our countryside.

    It's all very well extolling the virtues of wind turbines and small-scale hydro schemes, but when these projects are being rolled out in such a haphazard nature it doesn't really benefit anyone except the rich. There's no joined-up thinking, no master plan. All we have is a target that has to be met by any means necessary, so anyone with their hand out can cash in on the lucrative subsidies being chucked around.

    The struggle going on in Glen Etive at the moment is a prime example. ALondon-based company had submitted seven separate proposals for run-of-river hydro schemes, one for each of the main tributaries on the River Etive. This attracted an avalanche of objections.

    A few minor tweaks and concessions later, and hey presto, permission is granted by Highland Council's planning committee for all seven. It was always expected that some of the schemes would get the go-ahead. Even the biggest critics believed that would be the case. But all seven? This just smacks of opportunism. 

    The figures don't stack up, either financially or in energy terms. It's as if someone has looked at a map of the area, counted seven streams and then decided to go for broke because of the cash available. Someone that has no interest in the area, its history or the importance of its natural beauty.

    We keep hearing that the political system is broken. Decisions like this don't help. No one has any faith in the decision making process. There's a lack of transparency everywhere. A few platitudes are mouthed and then normal service is resumed.

    The whole planning system is heavily weighed in favour of the big developers. They have an extra right of appeal which usually means they will get their way in the end.

    The Glen Etive battle is not over yet. A motion by one councillor that the decision over three of the most damaging schemes should be reviewed by the full council has collected enough signatures. A site visit will be organised and a debate held at a later meeting. It's only a temporary reprieve, and it's likely pressure will be brought to bear from many quarters to get it through, but it's a glimmer of hope.

    Last week, we were all laughing at the claims that a millionaire from south of the border was said to be trying to buy a mountain to create his own Mount Rushmore. He allegedly wanted the faces of his family and their dog carved out for posterity.

    The overriding feeling was that this could never happen. Now I'm not so sure. All he has to do is promise to stick a wind farm on the top of it and we'll be begging him to take our money to fund it.

    My optimism over the future of our beautiful landscape is being eroded with every passing day. I have a feeling that 20 years from now, we will all be looking back and weeping.