What have wind farm developments ever done for us?

Emma Duncan
Emma Duncan admits she does not know where her textiles company would be without the wind farm funding

The south of Scotland is home to a little more than a fifth of the nation's wind turbines.

A recent report found they had generated more than £30m in community benefit funding since 1996.

It estimated that figure could sky-rocket to nearly £900m over the next 35 years.

What difference has that funding been making to communities - and will it be enough to win over other areas being targeted?

Langholm has seen much of its once thriving textiles industry closed down

In Langholm - known as the Muckle Toon - the textiles industry was once a thriving one but it has been hit by a string of closures and cutbacks in recent years.

However, projects like Emma Duncan's Creation Mill are trying to create a brighter future for the sector by encouraging younger people to consider it for a career.

She admits she doesn't know where her community interest company would be without funds which have come in from nearby wind farms.


"Langholm has a rich textile heritage and we were seeing a lack of people coming into the industry," she said.

"There are really skilled jobs needing new young people to come in and take them on."

She said the funding had made a "considerable difference" - supporting their workshop space, putting in equipment and a creating a community project manager post.

"It really set us up for a really good, positive direction," she said.

Jamie Dent
Jamie Dent said the amount of money coming into the region was "almost unprecedented"

Jamie Dent helps local groups develop projects and apply for funding through the Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group.

He works with the Ewe Hill and Solwaybank wind farms which have supported about 130 schemes to the tune of more than £1.5m.

"I think the smaller projects are just as important as the bigger projects," he said.

"Where we have things like community groups applying to put new double glazing in their village hall that is a very important grass roots thing."

He said he believed the benefits of the community fund outweighed the impact of turbines.

"I think that the amount of money that is coming into these communities via wind farms is really transformative and it is almost unprecedented," he said.

"I am not aware of this level of funding into communities at any time in the recent past."

In Kirkpatrick Fleming and the surrounding area, they have seen funding come in from a range of nearby wind farms.

Stephen Muir of the local community council said the impact on rural areas like this could be "massive".

"If it wasn't for the amounts of wind farm money coming into communities, village halls would not be there," he said.

"You would not have the groups that have been formed.

"The mental health and wellbeing advantages are massive."

Further west, the Blackcraig wind farm offers about £250,000-a-year to the community in the Glenkens.

Childminder Michele Owen, of St John's Town of Dalry, has been one beneficiary.

"We live in a very beautiful but rural and isolated area of Dumfries and Galloway which unfortunately is extremely limited in terms of childcare," she said.

"I moved here in 2021 and, due to the lack of childcare available, a number of parents were struggling to find a local provider which would allow them to go back to work."

Through a wind farm "microgrant" she was able to complete a number of courses which, in turn, allowed her to complete her registration with the Care Inspectorate.

"Being able to fund these has been crucial and without the support from a microgrant it is likely I would have needed to borrow money from another source, which would have been difficult given I was not working at the time," she said.

Helen Keron is executive manager with the Glenkens Community and Arts Trust (GCAT) in New Galloway which was set up 22 years ago to support economic regeneration in an area badly hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis.

She said wind farm support had made a "real difference" allowing them to support the Glenkens Gazette newspaper and back a community transport project to tackle social isolation.

Youth groups, town halls and other organisations have benefited as well as supporting the running of GCAT.

"The contribution that they have made to core salaries is absolutely invaluable in allowing us to thrive as an organisation and to continue to deliver on the ground for our communities," she said.

Not everyone welcomes the wind farms - no matter the funding they might bring.

In Newton Stewart, opponents recently held a vigil to show their opposition to a couple of developments being considered in the area.

Hands Off Our Hills co-ordinator Kenny Campbell said the benefit funds were "at best a distraction and at worst a straightforward bribe".

He said the sums involved were not guaranteed, tended to be profit-related and were not index-linked in any way.

"The initial sums can be huge and the organisations chosen to administer them historically have not had the necessary financial experience," he said.

"Without exaggeration this has led to local communities being torn apart, monies not being used and thus returned to the company.

"The sums involved do nothing to mitigate the environmental destruction, the impact on tourism and loss of our beautiful spaces for - at the very least - many generations."

It is clear that the debate over the impact of wind farm developments in southern Scotland is likely to rage for years to come.

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