Mountaineers demand better protection of Glen Etive amid hydro power plans

Mountaineers have called on a local authority to reconsider its options over plans for hydro power construction schemes in a famous glen.

Highland Council is currently considering seven applications for Glen Etive after comments on the proposals closed on Sunday.

But Mountaineering Scotland has criticised the plans, saying each scheme would involve new road construction, bridge-building, trench-digging, cement-pouring and power cabling.

The glen near Glencoe was famously used in the 2012 James Bond film Skyfall as well as in Mel Gibson’s Braveheart in 1995.

Mountaineering Scotland chief executive Stuart Younie confirmed the group has written to councillors in a bid to reconsider the development of the glen over “relatively low power output”.

He said: “We are challenging the Highland Council on its stewardship of Glen Etive and call for the planning department to defend this much-loved landscape.

“Wild land is fragile and requires understanding of what can damage its qualities for generations to come, and it needs a commitment to protect those qualities.

“This is despite the increasing complaints of poorly constructed and restored access tracks, intake weir pipework and bare concrete facings.

“We have already written to the Highland Council planning department voicing our concerns about the legacy of intrusive tracks, and their reply confirmed they do not have the resources available to monitor every development, and instead rely on local people and other organisations to alert them to any alleged breaches of planning conditions.

“If developments are to be given permission in such sensitive areas, that permission should only be given where proper monitoring and safeguards are in place.

“If either the Highland Council or the Scottish Government want to be taken at all seriously as stewards of some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery, they must up their game.”

Glen Etive
Glen Etive

Two plans had been withdrawn due to impact concerns but were recently resubmitted with modifications, according to Mountaineering Scotland access and conservation officer Davie Black.

He added: “Small-scale hydro-power schemes should be relatively benign forms of renewable energy generation, but do not come free from environmental costs.

“If not carefully designed, the construction footprint and visual legacy in areas of natural beauty and wildness can greatly outweigh the power generation produced by each scheme.

“Do the schemes that lie in the Wild Land Area really need a new track to just clean the intake weir? It should be simple enough to walk in from the existing track.”