Ewan Morrison: 'Maybe it is not windfarms that are deadly, but anti-windfarm protesters themselves'
So on my last trip home to Caithness I was glad to see a few more had popped up. Standing out there in the usual gale, I got to thinking, Caithness could do with a lot more. In fact it could, by setting up huge wind farms, become an ecological example to the world. I mean what is the one thing that Caithness has in abundance, other than the largest single expanse of peat bog in the world? The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.
It came as a bit of a surprise to me to discover there was some local opposition to windfarms, albeit from a small but highly active group. Who were these people? I checked out the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum online and accidentally discovered a treasure trove of hilariously twisted statistics.
The first one seemed alarming: 52 fatalities from windfarms. My God, I thought: so many deaths in such a small county? What a tragedy; what year did this happen? On closer inspection the stats turned out to be since "the 70s". Furthermore, it was not in Caithness, or Scotland, or even the UK, but worldwide. Fifty-two deaths worldwide in nearly 40 years. Wow, you'd be hard pushed to find anything that killed that few. Perhaps choking on a toothpick or, like the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, expiring from an eagle dropping a tortoise on your head.
Then things got even sillier. Two of the fatalities were caused by "driver distraction on roads". Implying that anything in the landscape worth watching could be blamed for death. Do we have statistics for those killed by the beauty of crested falcons or migrating geese? Or from roadside adverts for Wonderbras?
Then there was the parachutist who landed on a turbine and the low flying plane that crashed into one. Which is rather like blaming a mountain for pilot error. It was all turning into a fatal version of You've Been Framed.
Most ironic of all was the suicide of a farmer due to the pressure of public opposition against his proposed turbines – giving us the inverse proposition that it is not windfarms that are deadly, but anti-windfarm protesters themselves.
Who are these protesters, I wondered. Are they really concerned with fatalities and eco-damage – or even the future itself? Maybe they're retirees who've bought acres of unspoiled peat bog to stare out at in their final years. People who are not interested in putting Caithness on the map, but rather keeping it off it so they can keep their investment a secret. Or perhaps, more ludicrously, they are disgruntled former Dounreay employees who despise the very idea of anything eco and want to bring back their dead nuclear power station.
This is all wild speculation and all of it unprovable. It's just as well I don't have any statistics. I'd probably twist them to suit my argument.