A Scottish Government minister has defended the conduct of the public inquiry into a 137-mile power line.
Scotland’s biggest public inquiry is currently being held into proposals for a line of pylons from Beauly in the Highlands to Denny near Falkirk.
Deputy Scottish Tory leader Murdo Fraser described the process as “seriously flawed”.
However, Enterprise Minister Jim Mather insisted the inquiry was being conducted fairly.
“Calls to stop or redirect the inquiry would be at odds with the need for an objective process that listens and reaches a balanced judgment,” he said.
Mr Mather was replying to a Holyrood debate launched by Mr Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.
He had complained that the inquiry was not giving a fair hearing to objectors.
Mr Fraser complained of evidence being “dismissed” as inadmissible on deadline grounds by the inquiry reporters.
He also said other evidence was not being examined fully as the reports were sticking “rigidly” to the inquiry timetable.
Mr Fraser said: “Evidence being dismissed, evidence not being fully investigated, poor treatment of witnesses giving evidence, an assumption that a power line is needed, no real chance to discuss alternatives – I believe that all of this is fundamentally wrong.”
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow region, told MSPs: “Reasonable people need to expect a reasonable process.”
And Dr Richard Simpson, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife region, said: “If the process is not correct, then the decision may not be correct.”
Mr Mather insisted the inquiry timetable had not been set arbitrarily.
And while some had argued that more time should have been allocated, the aim should be “the tightest timescale that allows adequate and fair examination”.
The minister said the inquiry reporter had only refused to take late evidence in cases where no “cogent” reason had been put forward as to why it was being provided late.
The scheme would see 600 pylons up to 65m (213ft) high replacing the existing transmission line.
The inquiry is due to continue until the end of the year.
19 September 2007
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