I might be – and am – called many things. But I’d like to think small Scotlander, racist and insular aren’t among them. Not in my nature.
In my view, Scotland is far from full up, everyone who wants to live here is welcome and nothing makes me more annoyed than hearing the self-appointed ethnic guardians of the Scottish football media decry the rules which allow folk with non-Scottish accents play for the national team. I’d go further than the current rule actually and allow anyone who has settled and made their home and life here, paid their taxes (which might trouble some Rangers players), and contributed to our entertainment and raised blood pressure every Saturday for an agreed period of years to play for the country in which they have chosen to live. Or not, as may be their wont.
Indeed, the only thing which makes me more nauseous on issues of identity and nationality is UK Government policy and approach to immigration and asylum-seeking. When both Labour and Tories try to shut the door and turf folk out I tend to find myself shouting at the telly or the radio.
So, knowing this about me, I hope to head off any accusations or allegations which might be laid at my door for what I am about to write. About the anti wind farm lot.
On twitter, a wee while ago, one of their number urged people to support their petition by claiming that “one of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of SW Scotland may soon be gone with all its wildlife” if an application to build windfarms at Airriequhillart, near Port William, goes ahead.
Now this person lives in the Machars in Galloway and is perfectly entitled to exercise his or her democratic right to protest against a planning development of any sort. And I would defend this person’s right to engage in peaceful protest and opposition utterly. Particularly as a local resident likely to be impacted by such development.
And I can, on one level, understand why he or she is opposed to supposedly “industrial wind farms” but is still “pro green energy”. But I don’t share his or her opposition. And frankly, it sticks in my craw, to use a Gallovidian phrase, to see lots of well-meaning, anti-windfarm campaigners jump in and support the petition with a retweet. Particularly when they live in Oxford. And Fife. And Tyne and Wear. And even Brussels. Nearly every one of them a UKIP supporter or similar. Which matters not a jot really but irks me all the same.
Actually, scratch that. The fact that some have made this into a party political issue bothers me a lot. Especially those like the former Presiding Officer and current MSP for Galloway, Alex Fergusson, who sees no hypocrisy whatsoever in his stance agin the development of windfarms while continuing to earn a pretty penny (£50k plus per year) from having allowed the planting of windmills on his own land. To help finance the family tradition of sending the bairns to Eton for their education, no doubt.
For I’d bet a pound to a penny that none of them – though clearly not Alex Fergusson – have ever been to the South West of Scotland, never mind to Barrachan. And if they had, they would know that what the original protestor tweeted is stuff and nonsense.
Barrachan might well be a clachan. There might well be more people who live on my street in Edinburgh than live there these days. But to claim it beautiful? Hmm. Wild, isolated, moorland, important for native flora and fauna maybe. But not in the beautiful stakes, not really.
And it’s definitely not unspoilt. For this is prime agricultural land and its landscape has been shaped by the hand of man (and woman) over the centuries. Windfarms are the 21st Century equivalent of the drystane dyke frankly. Each of them are manmade innovations designed for a purpose: with dykes, it was to industrialise agricultural production, creating bigger, more efficient and effective land units; with wind farms, it is to industrialise the production of renewable energy, creating bigger, more efficient and effective units, capable of producing sufficient energy to make it sustainable.
As for the wildlife? Well, it does what it has always done and will adapt. Some species of animal, bird and plant might leave but others will come in their wake. One creature’s no go area is another’s Eden, especially as fundamentally, the soil and the conditions will remain largely the same, after a short period of disruption.
Some folk may not like windfarms – and they don’t. But they aren’t spoiling the environment, they are merely continuing a longstanding pastime and tradition – particularly in South West Scotland – of shaping that environment so that it is fit for current and future purpose. There might have been, in recent times, some reclaiming to wilderness of the land in and around Barrachan but that is precisely because of its depopulation and inability to provide a sustainable living for the people who live thereabouts.
Now, I am aware that there are some who might see some hypocrisy in my telling folk not of those airts and pairts to keep their opinions to themselves, blogging as I do from my eyrie hunners of miles away. Guilty as charged.
But I am a native. Despite nearly all my adult life having been spent away from Galloway, it is still home. And always will be. And having grown up there (or not so far from Barrachan), like many other young people, I was forced to leave to further my education and if there were jobs there for my skills, I’d return in a minute. Indeed, hatching plots and plans to get back there before my dotage is a regular hobby.
Which is why I support those who still live in Galloway to develop the area as they see fit. Because windfarms bring jobs, both in the short term and the long term. And hopefully, they will enable more young people to stay put, to live there all their lives if they want to and raise families. Windfarms provide prosperity and sustainability for communities like Port William, so that there are local shops, schools and health services and the whole population benefits. They are a welcome addition to the economy of this peripheral part of Scotland which has long grown used to living by its wits and seizing whatever opportunities present themselves to diversify and create income streams.
I get mighty fed up with people who have left the area – or never been in the first place – who reckon that they have a right to interfere in Galloway’s doings and workings, wringing their hands at the prospect of it being defiled by development from some misplaced and ill-informed sentiment about what should constitute a rural landscape. If they have their way, then rural Scotland will die. Which might provide a pleasing wilderness playground for those with means and urban lifestyles to visit occasionally, to admire the view, participate in a little back to basics holidaymaking, but Scotland will be a poorer and less diverse society as a result.
Rural communities need to be conserved. And the only way that is possible is by finding alternative ways to keep them alive. Wind farms contribute to that. And if that means allowing a million windmills to flourish on windswept moors and hillsides all over the south west, then so be it.
At least, Galloway will be able to claim that it did its bit when it came to saving us all from global warming. And maybe the folk elsewhere in Scotland and in the UK who choose to oppose windfarm development from ideological grounds or some idyllised sense of what a rural environment should be or from misplaced sentiment might want to ponder that, as they turn the heating up full blast to keep out the current wintry chill.