A fresh extension of the country’s windfarm capacity was announced yesterday as the First Minister faced critics of such developments in the lion’s den of a National Conversation event in Dumfries.
His entire Cabinet met at the Crichton Campus in the town yesterday before all the ministers faced an audience of around 160, many of whom objected to the South-west being at the forefront of expansion of the renewables sector.
But Alex Salmond was able to announce a new £22m expansion of a windfarm in the East of Scotland by a company based in the heart of the South-west, Natural Power, whose headquarters on the edge of the Galloway Forest near Castle Douglas are being expanded because the industry is booming.
Opening the expanded HQ later in the day, Mr Salmond said: “This expansion to its office space will enable the creation of 50 new jobs, accommodating up to 85 staff, more than double the current workforce, and further expand the company’s operations – a real boost to the local economy.
“Natural Power is a growing, thriving company, with more than 14,000 MW of renewable energy projects on its books. It is an important contributor to Scotland’s renewable energy sector and I am delighted to be able to announce a further expansion of the hugely significant Crystal Rig wind farm.”
That windfarm on a plateau on the boundary between East Lothian and Scottish Borders Council, is almost invisible from lower ground, but many of those present at Dumfries yesterday complained that too many new windfarms in their area were an unsightly blight which would ruin the tourism industry.
Mr Salmond insisted that his government took such issues into consideration, which was why some projects were given permission while others were rejected.
He cited the example of hydro power which was hugely controversial when the major projects were commissioned more than 60 years ago and are now treasured both as vital to our energy infrastructure and as visitor attractions.
Overall there was a warm reception for the enterprise of taking the full Cabinet on circuit over the summer recess, with Inverness, Skye and Pitlochry still to come. In each place the full Cabinet meeting will be followed by a similar public question session as part of the National Conversation.
Chief Scottish Political Correpondent
30 July 2008