At the Eishken public inquiry today, Alex Macritche, solicitor for Western Isles Council questioned the accountability and strength of support of MWT (Mòinteach gun Mhuileann) the Lewis based anti-giant windfarm protest body.
Catriòna Campbell said: “MWT aims to be inclusive for anyone who wished information from us. Whoever chooses to come along to public meeting chooses a committee.
“We don’t publish accounts but they are made available at our AGM. They are not audited by an external body. We don’t have a great deal of money. It all comes from donations.”
Ms Campbell accepted the council is a democratically elected body with a mandate for the people of the Western Isles.
Alex Macritchie asked: “How sure can you be of how representative of the local community MWT is?”
Ms Campbell answered: “Because of the number of objection letters to the Scottish Government against this (Eishken) and the North Lewis proposal. And the result of various ballots and polls. It gives us the confidence to keep going.”
She stressed that giant windfarm opponents “looked to us to give them a voice. Many said they were very disappointed that the council is not giving them a voice.”
Mr Macritchie queried the number of councillors who were elected on an anti-windfarm ticket at the 2007 local government elections.
Ms Campbell replied that she was unaware of the figures but pointed out the result of the Scottish Parliament election.
She said: “The MSP who had been democratically elected, Alasdair Morrison was very much for the windfarm, actually lost his position.” She highlighted that he was replaced by Alasdair Allan who was “sceptical of the proposals.”
Ms Campbell challenged the developer’s and the council’s stance over the population trends and the islands’ economy.
She said: “Up to a couple of years ago the population was in decline. It stabilised in the last few years and showed a slight increase. It is very heartening that the school roll in South Lochs is actually increasing.”
Mr Macritchie suggested that any rise was attributed to inward migration of retirees, people who were not economically active and temporary workers.
On the Arnish wind tower fabrication yard Ms Campbell said: “There appears to be some problem with its business model that it keeps failing and being propped up continually by public money.”
She agreed it was strange that it hasn’t won any orders from Scotland
She added: “Everybody wishes Arnish all the best and every success. If it filled its order book we would be delighted.”
She pointed out the boom and bust episode at the yard in the 1970s when the (local) “economy suffered severely when it went bust.”
Ms Campbell did not believe that the creation of 20 jobs or so from Eishken would be considered of nationally importance.
However, she accepted that the interconnector was nationally important and added: “Jim Mather, the enterprise minister, has put forward an initiative to look at renewable energy projects in the Western Isles that don’t impinge in environmentally sensitive areas.
She said: “I am sure Mr Mather would not be looking for such projects if he didn’t think the power would be ultimately exported.
Mr Macritchie said: “You said it is not healthy for a community to be relying on handouts. Do you advocate the withdrawal of areas such as ours – fragile peripheral areas?”
Ms Campbell said: “No. But it would be a better situation if the Western isles was less reliant on public money than at present.
She forwarded Skye as an example where tourism and the Gaelic language improved the island’s economy
Ms Campbell stressed that it was senseless to “destroy the NSA in order to provide green energy. You violate one green thing to achieve another green thing. In principle, I support renewable energy but I think this scheme is wrong.”
15 May 2008
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