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Lewis row over RSPB and SSE Shetland links  

A bitter row over plans for one of the world’s biggest windfarms to be built on Lewis escalated yesterday with the RSPB accusing the would-be developer of “deceit” over the extent of its potential job creation.

The million-member charity dismissed Lewis Wind Power’s (LWP) estimate of 230 as “misleading,” insisting 70 jobs was more realistic.

But the RSPB’s change of tack from criticising the environmental aspects of the bid was met with a broadside from the company and supporters who accused the charity of being in bed with a rival power firm.

The RSPB receives financial backing from Scottish and Southern Energy which has similar plans for Shetland.

The charity has previously argued that the 181-turbine project on Lewis threatens precious bird species and local tourism.

Its latest ammunition is in the form of a consultants’ investigation into the job claims, the findings of which are backed by leading Scottish economist Iain McNicoll of Strathclyde University, a former adviser to the Western Isles Council.

An RSPB spokesman said: “We feel the developer has been exaggerating in an over-optimistic and misleading way the economic benefits of this project. The figures we have commissioned are far closer to what might be expected.”

The Western Isles Council backs the Lewis proposal by partners Amec and British Energy despite receiving more than 4,000 objections. It will consider the planning application next month.

The council yesterday instigated its own inquiry to establish why the respective thinking on job estimates was so out of kilter.

Vice-convener Angus Campbell is writing to the RSPB to “ask about their involvement with SSE, the Shetland windfarm and their silence on the threat to birds from that scheme.”

Responding, an RSPB spokesman said: “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 our commercial arrangement with SSE, which we are also open about.”

He added that the RSPB Energy scheme only made up a “small percentage” of their revenue and that they were currently objecting to two smaller SSE wind power sites.


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