Angry windfarm protesters accused Alex Salmond of “trashing the Highlands” with turbines yesterday.
Placard-waving campaigners chanted slogans at the first minister as he made his way to Elgin Town Hall for a public meeting.
The demonstrators, who carried a coffin to symbolise the “mourning and death of Scotland’s wild lands”, timed their protest to coincide with the Scottish Government’s Cabinet talks in Moray.
Retired fine-art lecturer George Herraghty, from Lhanbryde, said: “I am here mourning the death and senseless destruction of wild land and wilderness areas of Scotland by the proliferation of inefficient, industrial wind turbines. Our children will inherit this environmental devastation.”
Mr Salmond faced a storm of protest from up to 30 campaigners as he and his ministers descended on Elgin for yesterday’s Cabinet session.
The barrage of protesters outside Elgin Town Hall shouted “Stop trashing the Highlands” and “Windfarms make no sense.”
Retired civil servant Dick Hewitt, whose home is at Drummond Cottage, Cummingston, was among almost 60 members of the Cummingston Resident’s Action group who lodged objections to plans by Strathdee Properties for three wind turbines – less than from his home.
Mr Hewitt, 66, said: “The biggest danger for me is a blade coming off or ice coming off it in the winter. It could damage my property or even injure somebody. I just think it’s totally the wrong place to put them. It’s dangerous, it’s too close to my home.”
And retired Caithness construction consultant Stuart Young, 65, made a 300mile round trip to join the demonstration in Elgin.
He said his home town was “over-run” with windfarms and felt it was important to protest on behalf of the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum which he chairs.
Mr Young added: “I didn’t get any comfort from our discussions
1,000ft with Scotland’s first minister. He was just beating the same old drum.”
Beauly-based contract cleaner Lyndsey Ward said she and six fellow campaigners were there to give a voice to people living in small rural communities. Ms Ward, 53, of Breakachy, is a member of the 100-strong Druim Ba Say No group, which is protesting against plans for a windfarm on the Blairmore Estate.
She said: “Windfarms are being placed in rural communities where there are not a lot of people. We feel we’re being ignored – it’s a case of out of sight out of mind. There’s so much coming out about health issues and these windfarms are being built really close to homes.
“Developers are ignoring the guidelines that say they need to be more than two kilometres away.”
Mr Salmond spent about 10 minutes speaking to the group, attempting to justify the costs of windfarm infrastructure and explaining why his party was in favour of wind energy. He came under more pressure inside the public meeting as members of the 300-strong audience challenged the SNP’s stance. He insisted renewable energy was the future and predicted coastal communities would see “thousands of jobs” and claimed the sector would bring at least 60,000 jobs by 2020.
Mr Salmond brushed off claims tourism would suffer, saying there was no substantive evidence and that it was “just an impression some people want to promote”.
He added: “Even if fossil fuel prices were to drop to 1960 levels, do we really think – given what we know about the implications on the planet – that we can purely go down that route?”
Moray Council received 42 applications for wind turbines last year, 13 of which are still outstanding.
The vast majority were for single or twin turbines. The local authority has two windfarm applications pending at Aultmore and Edintore. A third application for a 59turbine scheme at Dorenell on the Glenfiddich Estate is being decided by the Scottish Government.
The council’s definition of a windfarm is a development of more than three turbines, but it was unable to supply figures for this year.
At least 10 applications for windfarms of more than five turbines in Skye, Tomatin, Lairg, Garve, Kiltarlity, Caithness and Drumnadrochit have been made to Highland Council since September 2009.
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