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Greenshank is a scarce breeder in Britain, which only uses the flow country here. Photo: Hans Hillewaert (
Greenshank is a scarce breeder in Britain, which only uses the flow country here. Photo: Hans Hillewaert ( image

RSPB objects to flow country wind farm

Posted on: 20 Sep 2013

RSPB Scotland is objecting to a proposal for a large-scale wind farm in the heart of the flow country in Sutherland.

The flow country, a wide expanse of peatland and wetland with about 1,500 square miles of blanket bogs, is currently being considered as a potential World Heritage Site. Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Black-throated and Red-throated Divers, Greenshank, Dunlin, European Golden Plover and Merlin all breed in the habitat.

Energy company SSE have applied to build a 47-turbine scheme on an area of commercial conifers at Strathy South.  The site is completely encircled by globally important peatland habitats, protected under European and Scottish law. The area proposed for development would have been given similar protection were it not for inappropriate planting with conifers in the 1980s.

The final go-ahead for the proposal will rest with Scottish Ministers but The Highland Council will have a strong influence too. RSPB Scotland is urging those concerned about the proposals to email the Scottish government’s energy consent unit at and copy to Highland Council at

RSPB spokesman Kenny Graham said: “A number of wind farms have already been consented on the margins of the internationally important peatlands, outside of the core area. However, this proposal at Strathy South is very different. If agreed, we will see a large-scale wind farm being developed slap-bang in the heart of the flows, in an area surrounded by designated peatlands and populated by protected species.

“Thirty years ago, non-native conifer plantations were planted in the flows. This is now universally acknowledged to have been a terrible mistake. The proposal, which would replace a plantation with a wind farm, would show that the lessons of that unhappy episode have not been learnt. It would also drive a coach and horses through the shared aim of government and various conservation organisations to restore huge swathes of this internationally important habitat, and right the wrongs of past forestry policy. It would also pose a grave threat to the flows’ candidacy for World Heritage status.”

“The developer has reduced the number of turbines and stated that they will 'mitigate' some of the impacts on wildlife, but this is just tinkering with a development fundamentally in the wrong place. We should instead be restoring this precious site to its previous state, as has been instigated in other important areas of the flow country. The peatlands are precious and of international importance. We should protect and enhance them. That would be the environmentally correct thing to do. We hope that The Highland Council and Scottish Ministers will reject this proposal and send a clear message: renewables are important but will not be developed at any cost to Scotland’s peatlands”.

2 comments so far...

21 Sep 2013 00:27
How long until SSE offer a 'donation' to RSPB, and the objection is removed? It has become obvious that RSPB will sell it's sole to the wind industry.
04 Oct 2013 20:35
As a Sutherland resident, and long-time associate of RSPB, I am disappointed by snowie's comment. RSPB has to pick its battles, it would not win them all, this it knows from past experience. It is a green organisation after all, and knows that we need to dramatically reduce our reliance on burning of fossil fuels to provide electricity, and wind turbines presumably have a part to play in that. I can assure you that RSPB would rather none of these things were built in any wild area where wildlife and habitats are concerned, but it cannot separate itself from the green energy issue. There is strong local opinion up here, many folk are in favour of these turbines (for all the wrong reasons, as far as I can see, some very selfish I can tell you), so politically RSPB is in a difficult position (similarly across the UK). Where there is a chance the development can be stopped, RSPB will do its utmost to galvanise support to oppose it. Let's not forget that running campaigns is very expensive, and it would not want to waste its members' money. This one, at Strathy South, would be VERY damaging to wildlife, and a potential World Heritage site, as the report states, and it is one that simply has to be opposed. I hope that snowie has taken the time to write his letter of opposition to Highland Council, and not only to berate RSPB. To save energy, and not feed into the hands of the energy companies any more that necessary, I am now going to switch my computer off.
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