Strathy South

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Energy Megasites: Strathy Site designations: Ramsar site Site designations: SAC Site designations: SSSI
Greenshank, Tringa nebularia. Brownsea Island Dorset Wildlife Trust reserve. Dorset, England


Latest news: Scottish Ministers granted consent for this wind farm in April 2018. We are desperately disappointed with this decision, and are looking very closely at it and considering what further action may be possible to help protect this very special place.

The site of the proposed Strathy South 39-turbine wind farm is unsuitable for development due to the risk to the surrounding species & habitats.

Strathy South is right in the heart of the Flow Country, an area of incredible natural beauty and home to iconic, but threatened species like red-throated divers, hen harriers, greenshanks and the rare wood sandpiper. 

The natural beauty of the Flow Country and its importance for wildlife has been recognised in its consideration for UNESCO World Heritage Status

Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) has applied to the Scottish Government for consent for a 39-turbine wind farm at Strathy South. We studied this carefully and concluded that because of the risk to the surrounding species and habitats the site is unsuitable for wind farm development. 

Our objection has been backed by the Highland Council but the final decision will be made by Scottish Ministers, following a public inquiry. 

The area SSE wants to develop is a pocket of land which was forested in the 1980s, under a long abandoned policy of planting on peat bog. Today, much of the once forested land around Strathy has been returned to its former glory and all the areas surrounding the proposed development are designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar site. 

The site should be restored to the healthy peatland habitat it once was to re-create an extensive open habitat, unspoilt by either trees or turbines.

Our objection has been backed by the Highland Council but the final decision will be made by Scottish Ministers, following a recent public inquiry at which RSPB has given evidence.



Why is it worth fighting for?

The Flow Country is a vast , naturally treeless and wildlife rich land. It is the largest blanket bog in the world and the habitat holds nationally important bird populations which are threatened by the proposed wind farm, either through collisions or by their abandonment of the area because of turbine presence. 

Species at risk

We are particularly concerned about the impact the proposed windfarm will have on greenshanks, hen harriers and red-throated divers (which are all also found on the wind farm site) and the rare wood sandpiper. We are also worried about black-throated divers, golden eagles, golden plovers and dunlins.

What would this development mean for this habitat?

For decades RSPB Scotland and its partners have been working hard to restore this vast area to its former glory after an ill conceived policy of tree planting on the peatland in the 1980s damaged much of the area. A windfarm here would prevent the site from ever reaching its full potential for nature conservation. It would be inappropriate for a sensitive site, in the very heart of the internationally acclaimed Flow Country, to be built on in the proposed way.

At the end of the wind farm’s 25-year lifetime turbine bases, tracks and damage to the peatland's water table would be left, preventing full restoration of internationally important blanket bog habitats.

We are very concerned that if this development is approved, it will pave the way for other parts of this wonderful area to be developed, thus putting more pressure on the rich wildlife and astonishing habitat.

Support for peatland restoration

There are policies and financial incentives to encourage tree removal – without replanting – to restore peatland habitats so refusal of consent for a wind farm here does not mean the area would inevitably remain damaged by inappropriate conifer plantations. RSPB Scotland has a long and successful track history of working with partners to restore, manage and maintain peatland habitat.

How you can help

The RSPB has given evidence at the recently concluded public local inquiry (PLI) held at Strathy Village Hall. The Reporter who has been chairing this inquiry and listening to the evidence presented will prepare his report and make a recommendation to Scottish Ministers. Scottish Ministers will then make a decision on whether the windfarm should go ahead. 

We need Scottish Ministers to know how concerned people are about this windfarm in the heart of the Flow Country. You can also add your name to our petition to encourage Scottish Ministers to refuse consent. 

If you have a little more time, please write to ministers expressing your concerns as clearly (and politely) as possible to:

David Douglas (Conservation Scientist) heads up a team looking into the effects of a wind farm on Golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, Sutherland, Scotland

Our position

Threats from trees

Extensive fir tree plantations at Strathy, largely on blanket bog, have had an impact on the birds in the area as trees have grown and the canopy closed. There are rare, open-space birds in the surrounding area, although these have largely been replaced by common woodland species in the proposed development site. 

The peatland habitat can and should be restored when trees are felled, either at crop maturation or prematurely, for conservation reasons.

Threats from turbines

Proposals for wind farm development at Strathy South (and at Strathy North and Strathy Wood) will potentially lead to collisions of birds utilising the area and are likely to prevent full recolonisation by open-space birds once trees are removed and bog habitat restored. 

Where we stand

Strathy South is simply not suitable for wind farm development. Not only is there a very high level of bird interest which will be harmed but the site is surrounded by land classified under EU Directives as the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and also as a Ramsar site. The benefits of a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases accruing from this scheme have been over-stated by SSE and national targets for renewable energy development will easily by met without the need for such damaging and inappropriately sited wind energy proposals as Strathy South.


  • April 2018
    Scottish Ministers grant consent for this wind farm. We are desperately disappointed with this decision, and are looking very closely at it and considering what further action may be possible to help protect this very special place.
  • 13 June 2015
    Public Local Inquiry concludes.
  • 20 April 2015
    Public Local Inquiry commences.
  • January 2015
    The RSPB maintains its objection.
  • October 2014
    SSE downscales its plans to 39 turbines and is required to submit further environmental information.
  • June 2014
    The Highland Council resolves to object to the application.
  • October 2013
    RSPB Scotland objection lodged.
  • August 2013
    An amended 47-turbine application is submitted.
  • August 2007
    We object to the original 77-turbine application.
  • September 2004
    We express serious concerns in scoping response.


Response on 'Electricity Act 1989 - Section 36 addendum on the proposed Strathy South wind farm'. PDF, 1.0Mb.

RSPB Scotland response to Strathy Windfarm