Offshore wind farm developments - public perceptions: survey

Findings from a survey exploring public perceptions of offshore wind farm (OWF) developments in Scotland. It describes whether and how respondents in Scotland have been impacted by OWFs, their attitudes to OWFs, and how OWFS affect their tourism and recreation choices.

Executive Summary


The Diffley Partnership was commissioned by the Scottish Government, with funding support from Marine Scotland and NatureScot, to conduct a study to assess public perceptions of offshore wind farm developments in Scotland. Specifically, the aims of the study were:

  • to gain an overview of the perceptions and experiences of those living near offshore wind developments in Scotland based on their lived experiences
  • to understand the factors which affect perceptions and experiences of living near offshore wind farms
  • to understand if perceptions and experiences change at different stages of a development (planning, construction, operation[1])
  • to understand whether, and in what way, offshore wind farms influence people's decisions regarding tourism and recreation in coastal areas.

Research Method

Within this research, it was important to ensure that those who live in coastal regions of Scotland were sufficiently represented in the study. The research was intended to enable valid and robust statistical comparisons between people living in coastal regions with the population as a whole.

Therefore, two versions of the survey (see Appendix A) were designed for two groups within the Scottish population:

  • 1,000, aged 16+, representative of the national population in Scotland
  • 1,065, aged 16+ who live in Scottish postcodes with a coastal sea border.

A breakdown of the sample is included in Appendix B and details of the sample in Appendix C.

The research was conducted using the ScotPulse online panel between 11th and 16th February 2021.


Given the sample design, outlined above and expanded in Appendix C, comparisons between those in coastal areas and the population as a whole are commented on throughout this report. For ease of reading, the following terminology is used in the report:

  • National respondents - those from the representative sample from across Scotland
  • Coastal respondents – those who have a postcode bordering a coastline
  • Lived experience respondents – a subset of the coastal respondents, those who have the same outward postcode[2] as an area which is used during the construction of an offshore wind farm. This includes areas where there is onshore infrastructure, where the offshore cables make landfall and areas which are parallel to the offshore development.

Summary of Findings

Key findings from this public research on perceptions of offshore wind farm developments are as follows:

  • The vast majority ofrespondents view marine and coastal industries as having social and economic importance, regardless of which part of Scotland they live in.
  • In particular, 92% think the renewable energy sector is important to Scotland in terms of its social value, while 89% think the sector is important to Scotland in terms of its economic value.
  • Over 4 in 10 (43%) of coastal respondents are aware of an offshore wind farm near to where they live, compared to around a quarter (24%) of national respondents.
  • Four in five (80%) national respondents and 83% of coastal respondents either strongly approve or tend to approve of offshore wind farms.
  • Perceived attitudes to offshore wind farms have not changed significantly over time; 85% of coastal respondents reported in the survey that they have always had the same opinion of offshore wind farms, while the same is true for 80% of national respondents.
  • A quarter (25%) of lived experience respondents think that offshore windfarms have had a positive impact on their quality of life, while 4% think the opposite, that they have a had a negative impact.
  • Further, two-thirds (66%) of lived experience respondents think the development provides a boost for the local economy.
  • However, a significant minority of lived experience respondents have some negative attitudes towards offshore windfarms even if their attitudes are broadly positive overall; this includes around a third (34%) who think that offshore wind farms detract from the traditional image of the coast.
  • Both national and coastal respondents are unconcerned about visiting or holidaying in areas where there are offshore wind farms; for example, four in five (81%) say that if they could see an offshore wind farm while on holiday it would make no difference to their choice of destination.



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