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Highland Council’s vengeful pursuit of costs

It seems that protest groups which campaign to save their communities from monstrous wind farm developments are to be broken on the wheel of Scotland’s judicial system.

The Skye Windfarm Action Group (Swag) waged an energetic and commendable campaign against the decision by AMEC and Highland Council to construct giant wind turbines on peatland at Edinbane in Skye. Swag was denied legal aid and forced to fund-raise to take its case to judicial review before the Scottish courts. AMEC and Highland Council then successfully applied to the courts to bring the hearing forward from June 2008 to October 2007, to deny Swag sufficient time to raise the necessary funds to compete effectively.

Following the comprehensive dismissal of Swag’s case by Lord Hodge, who nevertheless sharply criticised AMEC’s environmental statement as falling “far short of the ideal statement”, Highland Council has now applied to the courts for an award of full costs against Swag. This vindictive and malicious move can only be motivated by the desire to scare off other would-be protesters against future proposals to industrialise Scotland’s landscape. It is manifestly unfair vengefully to pursue a small community protest group in this way and it may even be in breach of EU law.

Highland Council seems to have endless access to public funds when it comes to taking action against protest groups such as Swag in the courts, but it would do well to familiarise itself with Article 6 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, echoed in Article 10a of EU Directive 85/337/EEC as amended, which on the subject of citizens’ access to “justice at an affordable price” states that “any such procedure shall be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive”.

It is my intention now to seek the immediate intervention of the European Commission on this issue to ensure that the Edinbane protesters are not hung out to dry by Highland Council simply, in the famous words of Voltaire, “pour encourager les autres”.

Struan Stevenson, Conservative MEP, The European Parliament, Brussels.

The Herald [1]

28 February 2008