WHEN barrister Samantha Kane bought Carbisdale Castle in the Scottish Highlands for more than £1 million nearly two years ago her aim was to turn a rundown, listed heritage site into a top tourism destination of which she, the country and local people could be proud.

Now Kane, who goes by Lady Carbisdale, fears the Labour Party’s election pitch for a Great British Energy investment vehicle to force through a renewable agenda and decarbonisation programme by 2030 could ruin that plan. “It will kill the tourism business,” she said.

Labour’s proposal could require tripling offshore wind and doubling onshore wind capacity over the next six years, bringing forward prospects of a multiplicity of wind farms and more giant pylons, preceded by increasing engineering works across Highland communities and disruption on major roads.

That’s not to mention the effect on the Highlands’ outdoor environment, historic sites and scenic beauty, the very reasons people visit the area.

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“No tourist will want to come to the castle,” says Carbisdale. “It will make the building unsustainable. It will go into ruin.”

The castle, built in 1907 on a hill close to the village of Ardgay and some 30 miles from Inverness for the then Duchess of Sutherland, has a storied history and included a clock tower with one side blank as the Duchess reportedly didn’t want to give her nearby former in-laws “the time of day”, hence an unofficial title the “Castle of Spite”.

The present owner has spent time and more than £10m on restoring the castle to accommodate high-end guests and engage tours around the premises in an area that is a rural beauty spot.

Carbisdale, who has perhaps uniquely changed gender three times in her life, is devoted to creating “a fairytale castle and world-class private membership club” according to her website.

She is also a steadfast opponent of the velocity of Scottish net-zero change as she said after attending an energy summit in Strathpeffer in the Highlands at the end of last month.

It featured a speaker from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Transmission (SSEN) and others representing renewable resources including hydrogen, biofuels and biogas and was chaired by Tory MSP Edward Mountain, convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Net Zero, Energy and Transport Committee.

Carbisdale said: “The speed [of change to renewables] is far too fast for such an undertaking which normally only leads to unwanted and even disastrous consequences.”

Meanwhile, she is proud to be helping Highland organic farmers and local charitable causes to protect wildlife around her forested estate.

Apparently to “avoid politics” there was no opportunity at the energy summit to debate the way forward on North Sea oil and gas, nuclear power (except a hurried “straw poll”, with most supporting nuclear) nor Labour’s GB Energy plan.

Questioned afterward on the latter, some audience members saw the Labour initiative as a means of “industrialising the Highland countryside”, “benefiting England” and “allowing foreign-invested companies to take profits while talking about pretend local jobs”.

After the event, Mountain said: “There’s much in the North Sea where we can actually take fossil fuels out which we’re going to need for a few years yet. We also have great companies developing wind farms across Scotland – why are we not supporting them? Why do we need a nationalised [Labour proposed] company to do it for us?”

During the conference which one attendee called “a beauty parade of renewable energy companies”, invective was aimed by a participant at expert speaker Yvonne Crook, representing Highland Renewables Ltd while also chair of Highland Tourism CIC. How could these positions be compatible?

Crook spoke of a cleaner environmental legacy for Highland young people while saying her 30 years in hospitality showed renewable energy initiatives had no conflict with tourism. “We see the need for infrastructure, including pylons,” she asserted later.

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But particular focus was on SSEN Transmission’s head of corporate affairs, Greg Clarke. He described the company’s historic £20 billion sustainable investment programme in Northern Scotland, detailed local consultations to refine plans, but also the short 10-year official instruction by UK and Scottish governments on net-zero goals – a longer strategic framework was independently recommended.

He described the southward-bound resources of Highland wind farm energy while minimising risks and working to benefit northern communities. It was tough to explain amid some heckling. He personally thought the Highland energy project would not impact on tourism.

Final words at the conference came from Carbisdale. “The [overhead] pylons are going to come right past Carbisdale Castle, overlooking our formal estate gardens – they are going to ruin the castle. We are going to lose all our bookings. If the pylons come, we’re going to lose up to 90 jobs and I’ll lose my entire life savings. What are you going to do about it?”

She received loud applause. Carbisdale is seeking court action later this month to block the pylons project near the castle – part of SSEN’s 400kV overhead line connection between Spittal and Beauly – claiming serious nuisance and harm.