A feud has broken out on a Scottish island with accusations of dirty tricks involving one of the country’s largest charities, an energy adviser to Tony Blair and some of the biggest wind power developers. At the centre of the row is the RSPB, which is accused of taking a tough line against wind farms, except for one proposed by Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE), a company with which it has a commercial relationship.
The West Highland Free Press (WHFP) newspaper highlighted the issue in a furious broadside against the bird protection charity. It accuses the charity of strongly opposing a major wind farm proposed by Amec on the Isle of Lewis while supporting an even bigger one on Shetland to be operated by SSE.
“Plans for the world’s biggest wind farm in the Shetland Islands have been met with a deafening silence from the RSPB who are the arch critics of smaller west coast projects, which many see as being in direct competition to Shetland’s 600 megawatt mega-scheme,” argues the paper under the headline “Money talks: RSPB silent on Shetland wind farm”.
The paper points out that the charity and the SSE are partners in RSPB Energy under which the bird group receives payments of £20 for every customer who switches to the RSPB Energy brand. The RSPB’s silence on Shetland is all the more curious – it argues – given how its website talks about Shetland’s “outstanding bird life” being a main attraction for visitors.
The RSPB dismissed the arguments, insisting there is no compromise. “We have not been ‘silent’ on the Shetland proposal, rather, we have indicated some support for it, albeit with caveats regarding the proposed location of some of the turbines. Our view is based on issues related to birds rather than, as suggested by the WHFP, our commercial arrangement with SSE, which we are also open about.” It pointed out that it was objecting to two smaller SSE wind power schemes elsewhere in Britain. The charity agreed that Shetland was known for its wildlife, but said the local council and the developer had consulted it at an early stage about how best to site the turbines.
Supporters of the RSPB point out that the West Highland Free Press is part-owned by Brian Wilson, a former energy minister and occasional energy adviser to Mr Blair, who is also a non-executive director of an Amec company. Mr Wilson declined to comment last night but friends pointed out that both he and the newspaper were supporters of wind energy. He never interfered in the editorial line.
Tuesday January 30, 2007
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