The proliferation of wind farms in the Borders will be a major issue at the forthcoming Scottish election, judging by a standing-room-only public meeting in Lauder last Friday.
“The turnout says it all,” said Graeme Donald, a member of Lauderdale community council which organised the unique single-issue hustings, attended by all four candidates contesting Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale on May 5.
“The audience was made up of reasonable people, the majority in favour of harnessing renewable energy into the future, but convinced the Borders has already taken more than its fair share of wind turbines to the detriment of the amenity and the tourism on which we depend.”
The meeting had been called to address the impact of the nine wind farms, comprising 191 turbines, currently operating or with planning consent on the 10 mile spine of the A68/A7.
The biggest cheer during the gathering in the Public Hall greeted the call from the floor for Scottish Government ministers to respect decisions taken by Scottish Borders Council’s planning committee and not uphold appeals against local determinations to reject wind farm applications.
There was also a measure of support for Tory candidate and former Galloway and Upper Nithsdale MP Peter Duncan who criticised the Scottish Government and its predecessors for “presiding over the growing proliferation of wind farms now covering the Borders.”
Mr Duncan later stated in a press release: “The Borders has a unique landscape and one which we should not put at risk. The sheer number and scale of wind turbines now in place and those now proposed is way beyond what our community should have to bear.
“I support a balanced energy mix for our country, but the Scottish Government under the control of the SNP – and before them the Lib Dems and Labour – is obsessed with wind power and it is local communities across the Borders who are paying the price. All across the region, proposals for new turbines have gone too far.
“I’m calling for a moratorium on approval of new wind farms to be put in place immediately after the election, allowing time for a appraisal of the damage being done and for a new government to put in place a new plan for a fairer distribution of the burden of wind power.”
The SNP’s Christine Grahame responded: “The Tory candidate has been away from frontline politics for a while and clearly doesn’t know it is the Tory and Liberal coalition at SBC that has the final planning say on wind farm applications. Mr Duncan made it clear at the meeting that instead of wind turbines he would be happy to see nuclear power stations springing up in the Borders countryside with all the dangers that would bring.
“Scotland has set very ambitious targets on reducing the nation’s carbon emissions. We only have to look at the massive negative impact significant changes in climate can have on our infrastructure, businesses and communities to see that action is needed now to meet the environmental challenges facing all of us.
“The SNP’s commitment to research and development of tidal forms of renewable energy is unparalleled by any of the London-based parties.”
Lib Dem Jeremy Purvis said: “The difficulty with Mr Duncan’s approach was highlighted at the meeting when a member of the public asked what size of turbines would he cover in his moratorium, and he couldn’t answer.
“His approach would therefore halt small-scale renewables and this was unpopular in the hall. I favour a policy that will mean any application is considered in the context of regional cumulative impact and takes into consideration the already large number of sites approved.
“The biggest concern is the seemingly arbitrary way ministers overrule local decisions that have been made and there was support for my work to seek to persuade government, of whatever hue after the election, to put in a national planning policy recognising the Borders is at capacity for onshore wind. If we have an approach of regional cumulative impact, this will happen.
“Mr Duncan’s moratorium is only temporary, while my approach is permanent. His approach would then allow ministers to dictate the exact siting locations for applications. I don’t want more central diktats. I want local decision-making where possible on energy and planning in the Borders.”
The Labour candidate Ian Miller told TheSouthern: “We need a balance of all types of energy to meet the needs of the nation.
“As far as wind turbines are concerned there is not enough financial return going back into the local community and it is large energy companies and weathly land owners who are reaping the benefits.
“Co-operative models, such as in Boyndie Aberdeenshire and the Isle of Skye, demonstrate how communities can control renewable energy projects.
“Where communities have ownership, the long-term benefits are greater than those derived from one-off inducements … and give people a real sense of engagement in contributing to cutting carbon emissions and dealing with climate change.”
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