The First Minister is to be asked to intervene to save the giant Lewis wind farm project.
Islanders who support the plan believe that, if Alex Salmond could step in to the row over Donald Trump’s golf resort north of Aberdeen, he can do it for the 181 turbines which are proposed for the north and west of Lewis.
Western Isles Council is convinced that the £500m project could transform the economic fortunes of the island, creating more than 300 jobs and generating £6m a year in community benefits. Although island opinion has been divided, the council overwhelmingly voted to support it and recommended ministers grant planning permission.
But last week developers Lewis Wind Power received a letter from the Scottish Government indicating it was unlikely to win ministerial approval.
It explained: “We have concluded that the proposal would have significant adverse impact on a site protected by the Wildlife and Habitats Directives.”
The company was given three weeks to respond but a change of heart is considered unlikely.
However, as a result of “an informal meeting” of Western Isles councillors held in Stornoway at the weekend, the council is to write directly to the First Minister asking him to intervene. Mr Salmond will also be invited to the islands to hear how the wind farm project would benefit the islands as well as assist in meeting the government’s targets for renewable energy.
The council’s vice-convener Angus Campbell is also meeting Energy Minister Jim Mather today to discuss economic development in the islands.
After the weekend meeting, Mr Campbell said: “The Comhairle (council) will be working with the enterprise company, the Stornoway Trust and other agencies to make the government aware of the importance of this one-off opportunity for the Western Isles.
“We will also be contacting Highland and Island list MSPs and asking them to work for the islands on this critical issue. We have to see if we can make Scottish ministers minded to grant permission.”
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that eight communities in the Western Isles are to form a co-operative to build their own smaller wind farms to bring benefit to the community. Four of them are ready to submit planning applications for projects up to four turbines in size.
This follows a successful two-turbine scheme approved for the North Harris Estate last year. The co-operative initiative includes companies from the Point, Tolsta, Galson, the Barvas areas of Lewis and North Harris. Others have also expressed interest.
Donald John MacSween, chairman of Point Power, the company set up in the Point area three years ago to develop a community wind farm, said: “The Point Power proposal is for a wind farm that would generate 10 megawatts built on the part of the Barvas Moor set aside as common grazing.
“A number of community companies expect to apply for planning permission at the end of March and we would hope to have a decision by this summer.
“All the proposals are small and set for locations that are not near roads or houses and the public support them. We have had talks with Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB and they have assured us that they don’t have any objections to our schemes.”
By David Ross
28 January 2008