MILLIONS of trees have been cut down to make way for wind turbines in Scotland.
And the revelation has sparked outrage among environmental campaigners and politicians who claim wind farms are ruining the countryside.
Over the past decade 5000-10,000 hectares of Scotland’s woodland has been destroyed for wind farm development.
This means that anywhere between 1.25 million and 25 million trees could have been cut down.
Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said:
“This is a scandal of gigantic proportions.
“It is counter-productive to destroy woodlands for wind farms. They are natural carbon capture and storage systems.
“It is the Scottish equivalent of cutting down rainforests in the Amazon and it’s unforgivable.
“I’m stunned by the figures here. To desecrate so many forests is environmental vandalism on a monumental scale. “
Last year the Scottish Government set a target of 80 per cent of Scotland’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.
And it said that a doubling of the current number of onshore wind turbines would be required.
Eaglesham Moor on the outskirts of Glasgow is home to Europe’s biggest wind farm.
It is claimed that developers cut down more than 600 hectares of woodland to make way for the development.
John Mayhew, of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said:
“Our members are on the phone every day saying they’re really worried about rural habitats and landscapes being destroyed.
“Wind farms and the pylons that go with them are the biggest threat to that and we simply shouldn’t be building them on ancient woodlands or peat bogs.
“The Scottish Government claims its priority is economic growth and that the main driver of that is the developing the renewable industry.
“But their priority should be the prosperity and well-being of their citizens and that’s partly about having fresh air, clean seas and a decent environment. “
Figures released earlier this year revealed the Scottish Government sold 18,000 hectares of forest since 2007.
But over the same period it had bought just 7200 hectares.
It is not known what proportion ended up in the hands of wind farm developers.
A spokesman for Forestry Commission Scotland said that decisions on wind farms were mainly taken by local authorities.
“Across Scotland, a total of about 60,000 hectares of new woodland has been created during the last 10 years so we are certainly planting far more trees than we have lost. “
Earlier this year a report, published by Scottish Natural Heritage, said the proportion of Scottish land not blighted by man-made structures fell from 31 per cent to 28 per cent in the year to December 2009.
Jenny Hogan, of Scottish Renewables, the industry lobby group, said:
“Renewable energy is our biggest tool in tackling climate change.
“Wind farms constructed in Scotland today save almost three million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
“There is a clear moral, economic and environmental imperative to tackle climate change.
“It has become common practice for developers to compensate for felled trees by replanting. “