Area was made famous in classic novel
Activists are opposing proposals to erect elextricty pylons through an area of outstanding beauty in Aberdeenshire.
Energy giant SSEN wants to develop its East Coast 400kV project with overhead lines between the villages of Kintore in Aberdeenshire and Tealing in Angus.
The area was made famous in Lewis Grassic Gibbons famous novel, Sunset Song, in 1932.
But furious residents have accused energy bosses and the government of trying to "industrialise the Highlands" after they gathered to protest controversial plans for major new power lines and substations last month.
Dozens of concerned residents packed into Kiltarlity Community Hall, or joined in on Zoom, to protest against proposals by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) for the new 400kV power line.
A new substation is also earmarked for Loch Buidhe in Sutherland, as well as subsea cables from Caithness to Aberdeenshire, and an overland power line from Beauly to Peterhead. A future power line connection from Beauly to the Outer Hebrides is also in its early stages.
Critics have warned that the new site near Beauly would cover an area of 56 acres – somewhere between 30 and 35 football pitches.
Frustrated protesters claim that the matter has been made worse by a "derisory" initial one-month consultation window and two-week extension in which people can air their concerns.
They added that staff have been taking annual leave during the consultation period, maps and information on the website have been "inadequate", and ‘out of office’ is "the response to most approaches".
And one of the campaign's leaders fears that energy bosses will run roughshod over their concerns, arguing this is what has happened in the past.
“We learnt from the Beauly-Denny line objections that SSEN’s ‘listening to stakeholders’ is a cynical box-ticking exercise – a tiny fig leaf of consultation on a very big pylon. They ignored all our input. The same will happen this time,” said CB4PC campaigner Lyndsey Ward
Ms Ward told the meeting that based on the experience of fighting the Beauly-Denny power line – which went live in 2015 – there was no point in battling SSEN on the structures and routes they propose at this stage. Beauly to Denny was fought and lost on environmental issues, she said, and that advice to CB4PC from its planning policy expert is to oppose the proposals on a ‘no need’ basis.
“Crazy though it may seem, there is no master plan for Scotland and the UK showing power requirements, either now or in the future, measured against what is being produced and what is in the system for future production,” she said at the meeting. “We want the facts and figures not just having it forced upon us. Show us the evidence we need this transmission because we have looked and we can’t find it”
Greg Clarke, head of corporate affairs for SSEN Transmission, said: "These projects are part of a major upgrade of the electricity transmission system that are required to deliver our climate change and energy security targets.
"We're still at the very early stages of developing these projects and we are consulting extensively with communities across the north of Scotland and we'll continue to do so to develop these projects in such a way that tries to minimise and mitigate impacts.
"It is likely that the significant proportion of this infrastructure will be overhead steel lattice towers but there may be sections of undergrounding that we look at where there are landscape and visual impact assessments that justify that technology."
Mr Clarke explained: "We will look to do everything that we possibly can to reach voluntary agreements and build support for our projects with landowners and with local communities.
"In the event that we are unable to reach a voluntary agreement, after exhausting all options, then we do have the ability to undertake compulsory purchase orders.
"We would like to reassure everybody that that is only ever taken as an absolute last resort, once we have exhausted all other options, to deliver this critical national infrastructure that is required if we are to meet our climate change and energy security targets."