David Ross, Highland Correspondent
A major wind farm development has split opinion almost equally, according to a survey.
Ministers are considering applications to build a 209-turbine wind farm in the north of Lewis and one for 53 turbines further south in the Lochs area.
But if they were looking for evidence of a clear local preference, they will be disappointed by a public attitude survey commissioned by Western Isles Development Trust (WIDT) and published yesterday.
It was undertaken by Ipsos Mori who surveyed 601 residents of the Western Isles by telephone in May.
Asked to what extent they supported or opposed the general principle of building major wind-farms on Lewis, 41% of respondents said they strongly supported or tended to support it, while 40% said they strongly opposed or tended to oppose, while 19% neither supported nor opposed.
But 80% of those surveyed supported proposals to create a centre for the study, research and development of renewable energy in the Western Isles; 75% supported upgrading the link between the Western Isles and the National Grid.
Of those who supported the principle of building major wind farms on Lewis, the main reason they gave (45%) was that they generally supported wind energy as a clean way to generate electricity. The main reason for opposing (58%) was that the proposals would spoil the scenery.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), has already recommended that ministers approve the two major wind farms.
Mr Peter Carlin, chairman of WIDT and a South Uist councillor, said: “This is an extremely important survey as it demonstrates that there is significant support in the wider community for the principle of building major wind-farms on Lewis . . . The challenge is to achieve the economic potential that the renewable industry offers, while safeguarding our environment.”
But Dr Finlay Macleod, the Gaelic writer and broadcaster who opposes wind farms, said: “I wouldn’t have the audacity to comment on proposed developments in South Uist or Barra. The people whose view should be sought are those who will be directly affected. There have been over 20 surveys of their opinion showing massive opposition.”
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