A key protest group will boycott a renewable conference conference organised by Western Isles council.
The local authority set up the Outer Hebrides Energy summit immediately after it emerged that the Scottish Government had provisionally refused Lewis Windpower planning permission to build Europe’s biggest windfarm on Lewis.
Since then the council has embarked on an intense lobbying campaign in an effort to get government planners to change their minds.
In January it organised the energy conference which takes place next week and without prior consultation told assigned specific topics to certain groups to speak about.
With the theme being about developing renewable energy for the community and environment energy minister Jim Mather has been invited to give a headline speech. The conference date was organised around Mr Mather’s diary.
Close observers suggest that the summit will turn out to be a requiem or even a bitter postmortem event to mark the demise of the Lewis wind farm application.
There are suggestions that the original speakers’ line-up focused too heavily on supporters for the Amec / Lewis Windpower scheme for the Barvas moor rather than a wider perspective for renewable energy. It is highlighted that LWP are the only developers to be invited while others including local community developers have been excluded.
Some suspect that the council has ulterior motives including island-based anti-giant wind farm campaigners Moorlands Without Turbines (MWT)which has confirmed it will boycott the summit.
At least one other body is thought to have considered a similar boycott before the council amended its format.
Catriona Campbell of MWT said: “If the Council wish to ‘develop renewable and alternative energy projects for the benefit of the community and the environment’, they must get out of Stornoway and go into the rural communities into whose environment they wish to locate their schemes.”
Ms Campbell added: “The time for the Council to consult on proposals is before they make their decisions. Quite simply, if they cannot persuade the host communities of the merits of their schemes, they should not go ahead. That would be democracy at work.”
In a letter to the council MWT said: “For over four years now Moorland without Turbines, an organisation derived solely from within the islands community, has helped to give a voice to other islanders opposed to the major windfarm proposals on the Isle of Lewis.
“During this time the communities affected and Moorland without Turbines have been effectively ignored by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the planning process. At times we have also been insulted.
“Most recently the Vice-Convener, Mr Angus Campbell referred to those who are opposed to the Lewis developments as “ignorant” live on national television.
“We therefore question the motive behind the current gesture, particularly as it is apparent that the communities of the Western Isles will yet again be under-represented at this event, as indeed are developers who have interests on the Islands, be they utilities or community based.
“After very careful consideration we do not believe it would be appropriate for Moorland without Turbines to participate at this event under the circumstances.”
10 March 2008
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