Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather has been accused of “grandstanding” on renewable energy policy, while failing to deal with a controversial application for the 181-turbine windfarm proposed for Lewis.
The criticism comes from Donald John MacSween, named by Labour as its Western Isles hopeful for Westminster, who also claims the Holyrood government appear to have chosen the east coast for a submarine cable, abandoning the huge generating potential of the Western Isles.
Mr MacSween’s comments after Mr Mather’s announcement that he is setting a nine-month target for dealing with new energy applications, where there is no public inquiry required. The current average time for determining applications is two years.
The Lewis windfarm, proposed by AMEC, has faced strong opposition, with the RSPB threatening to challenge the decision through the European courts if permission is granted.
A revised plan for 181 wind turbines was submitted in December 2006 but so far there is no indication as to when a decision will be made.
Mr MacSween said Mr Mather’s latest pronouncement sounded like bad news for the Western Isles. “I welcome the fact that Mr Mather is now promising a decision within nine months of the application being made, but the Western Isles has been waiting for a year already for a decision.
“If they are now going to concentrate on new applications before they deal with the ones they already have, we will fall even further behind.
“Mr Mather should make the decision, for or against, urgently. Until they decide we can’t progress.”
He said he was also concerned over a caveat concerning a requirement for a public inquiry.
“We are very suspicious that the decision will be that the Lewis windfarm will have to go to a public inquiry.
“That will hold everything back for years, and create uncertainty and hinder development plans by the Western Isles Council.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Mr Mather promised that new applications would be decided in nine months if a public local inquiry wasn’t required.
“The Lewis windfarm application was made first in October 2004. The amended application for 181 turbines was made in December 2006. It is still under consideration by Scottish ministers.”
10 December 2007
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