Wind Farms and Tourism Trends in Scotland

A new research report by BiGGER Economics has considered whether there is any relationship between the growth of onshore wind energy and tourism in Scotland. The relationship between the development of the onshore wind sector and the tourism sector has been a subject of Debate over the past fifteen years, and is potential impacts on tourism are often cited in wind farm objections.

The study concluded that published national statistics on employment in sustainable tourism demonstrates that there is

no relationship between the development of onshore wind farms and tourism employment at the level of the Scottish economy, at local authority level nor in the areas immediately surrounding wind farm development.

Employment in the sustainable tourism sector grew in the vast majority of local authority areas in Scotland between 2009 and 2013. This growth was strongest in local authorities where the sector already played a large role in the economy. The growth in onshore wind energy capacity has been greater in some areas of Scotland than in others. Eight local authorities had seen a faster increase in wind energy deployment than the Scottish average. Of these, five also saw a larger increase in sustainable tourism employment than the Scottish average, while only three saw less growth than the Scottish average.

The analysis presented in this report shows that, at the Local Authority level, the development of onshore wind energy does not have a detrimental impact on the tourism sector.

This study also included analysis of the localities where onshore wind farms had been developed, that is within a 15km radius from wind energy sites. The analysis considered 18 wind farms constructed between 2009 and 2013, since tourism employment data from before and after the wind farm was developed was available from the Office of National Statistics. This found that in the majority of cases (66%) sustainable tourism employment performed better in areas surrounding wind farms than in the wider local authority area. There was no pattern emerging that would suggest that onshore wind farm development has had a detrimental impact on the tourism sector, even at the very local level.

A PDF copy of the report is available here.


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