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Lochs windfarm trustee refutes “divisive monster threat”

Former convenor of Western Isles Council, Donald Mackay, gave evidence to the Eisgein wind farm public inquiry on Wednesday.

Mr Mackay is a trustee installed to the Muaitheabhal Community Windfarm Trust (MCWT) by developer Mr Oppenheim who also set up the body.

Mr Mackay pointed out that eventually the Trust will hold a public ballot to democratically elect trustees unlike the present situation where the board have been installed selected by the developer to head the organisation.

From day one, it has always been known that the community would have to buy their own turbines and equipment if it wanted to take advantage of the free sites offered by Mr Oppenheim.

With costs estimated to reach up to a £ 21 million, the inquiry heard questions on the probability of the fragile community raising such huge capital and on the possible consequences if things went wrong.

Mr Mackay stressed: “Nothing will fall on the community or the Trust as a result of this development.

“Should the development fold mid-term there will be no fall-back on the community – that will be borne by developer.

Dr Finlay Macleod of local anti-giant windfarm group MWT suggested that the windfarm trust controlled by a handful of people may create a monster and “cause social problems in the community rather than improve the community. It may be a threat, be divisive.”

Mr Mackay: “Absolutely not. Most community bodies in the community are joined-up to the Trust.”

He pointed out the current situation with funding scarce for village projects meaning “all local bodies have to fight like ferrets in a sack (for finance).”

He said the profit stream would “address the decline in the area and give people a better life.

Mr Mackay agreed that broadband offered a great deal of potential.

He also pointed out there are “finite prospects” for a couple considering setting up home in South Lochs.

He said: “Sustainable community can only be there if employment is there.”

He referred to the “trend of centralisation” where jobs such as those at Storlann were transferred to Stornoway saying the windfarm would act as a “counter balance.”

Mr Mackay refused to say how Mr Oppenheim’s solicitor ended up dealing with the case he prepared for the inquiry.

Mr Mackay said: “I hope you assume that I tell the truth that I wrote every letter (of the precognition).

“I did not have access to a typewriter. I required a printer. It is as simple as that.”

Mr Macleod: “Who paid for the solicitor that was used in your case.

Mr Mackay insisted that all what was involved was him writing the precognition.

Mr Macleod: “The precognition was submitted by a firm of solicitors. How did that solicitor get involved?”

Mr Mackay: “That’s for me to decide.”

Hebrides News

22 May 2008