There was outrage last night after the Scottish Government issued a press release stating permission had been granted for a massive wind farm in rural Perthshire—only to claim 16 minutes later there had been an “administrative error.”
The astonishing blunder left campaigners both devastated and deeply suspicious.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser last night called for a “full investigation.”
An application for the huge 68-turbine Griffin wind farm close to Aberfeldy was previously rejected by Perth and Kinross Council following massive public opposition.
A public inquiry was then held and the final decision lies with ministers.
The bizarre drama began when the Scottish Government distributed a press release headed “Green light for Scotland’s third largest wind farm.”
But the statement below began on a seemingly unrelated topic, outlining ministers’ support for a relatively small 25MW increase in capacity at Mid Hill wind farm near Banchory (see story below).
Yet just two paragraphs later came a sentence that shocked those who have campaigned vigorously against Griffin.
It read, “A 68-turbine wind farm near Aberfeldy will be the third largest wind farm in Scotland, capable of generating 204 megawatts of electricity, enough for over 100,000 homes.”
Energy minister Jim Mather was then quoted, apparently welcoming the development.
On receiving the press release, The Courier immediately contacted the Scottish Government press office in a bid to clarify the announcement but was told the Griffin application had in fact not been approved by ministers.
A spokesman said the release should have referred solely to increase in capacity at Mid Hill.
He said there had been an “administrative error” and maintained a decision had “definitely not” been taken with regard to any Perthshire wind farm.
Pressed on why such a detailed press release could be issued apparently welcoming Griffin’s approval the spokesman suggested it was merely a case of “being prepared” for every eventuality.
However, that excuse failed to convince local campaigners including Jill Wilson of the Amulree and Strathbraan Windfarm Action Group (ASWAG).
“I am absolutely horrified about this,” she said.
“I may be an eternal optimist and would love to believe this was just an error but it does not bode well.
“Obviously, I sincerely hope there is no truth in this—if not the SNP will be held responsible for the ruination and damnation of Perthshire’s landscape for eternity.”
Mr Fraser was similarly concerned and clearly believes a decision has been made on the Griffin application.
Branding the Scottish Government’s press release “gobbledegook,” he said, “There seems to be chaos within Jim Mather’s office in relation to the granting of consents for these wind farms.
“First we are told in a government press release that consent for the 68-turbine wind farm at Griffin by Aberfeldy has been granted.
“Some 16 minutes later a corrected press release is issued deleting all reference to Griffin. What is going on?
“Perth and Kinross Council rejected the Griffin application after a vigorous local opposition campaign,” the MSP continued.
“There is no doubt that it is hugely unpopular in the highland Perthshire area.”
Mr Fraser claims the whole thing is “highly suspicious”—particularly with a council by-election set to be held in highland Perthshire next month.
“A government press officer would not have written this release—including a quote from Jim Mather—unless consent had been granted,” he said.
“So why the reluctance to announce the decision publicly? Could this have anything at all to do with the fact that the SNP are defending a council by- election in the highland Perthshire ward at present?
“Perhaps they know this decision will be hugely unpopular in the local area and one has to wonder if the plan was to conceal this decision until after the by- election in a bid to shore up SNP support.”
He called for a “full statement” from Mr Mather so the “true facts” come out.
By Dave Lord
26 January 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding