The Scottish Tories’ environment spokesman has been accused of hypocrisy after signing a potential £2 million deal for a windfarm on his Highland estate despite his party’s hostility to turbines in scenic areas.
Sir Jamie McGrigor stands to make a fortune by leasing part of his 3500-acre farm, above Loch Awe in Argyll, to a German energy giant. The deal with RWE NPower Renewables could earn Sir Jamie, who has been an MSP since 1999, at least £70,000 a year for 25 years.
However Struan Stevenson, the Tories’ only Scottish MEP, claims windfarms are a scam promoted by “rapacious speculators” ready to destroy the landscape “for a quick buck”.
Three years ago, Sir Jamie also signed a parliamentary motion demanding new rules on windfarms “to end the numerous and speculative applications … threatening scenic areas.”
Labour’s Sarah Boyack said: “It is clear the Tories are at sixes and sevens on wind power – saying one thing in Strasbourg and doing quite the opposite at Holyrood.”
An SNP spokesman said: “Of course onshore schemes should be sited appropriately but the Tories should get with mainstream Scotland or be seen as practising double-standards.”
According to the agreement Sir Jamie signed with RWE last month, he will receive £5000 a year for up to seven years as an option fee while RWE assesses the land above his Ardchonnel Farm near Dalmally and tries to obtain planning permission.
Any windfarm would have a capacity of at least 10 Megawatts and the lease would be 25 years.
If the project was approved, Sir Jamie would then get a development fee/disturbance payment of £3000 a year per Mw while turbines were erected.
Once the windfarm produced electricity, he would then get a base rent of £7000 a year per Mw, or at least £70,000 a year.
With payments index-linked against inflation, the total over 25 years will be at least £2m.
In addition, Sir Jamie could also get “variable output rent” – extra cash paid above the base rent if the farm operates above 23% capacity. A typical windfarm operates at 25% capacity.
RWE NPower already operates two other windfarms around Loch Awe – 14 turbines at Beinn Ghlas to the north generate up to 8.4Mw, while 23 turbines at An Suidhe to the south generate up to 19.3Mw.
However, last year Argyll and Bute Council refused RWE permission for a 15-turbine, 45Mw windfarm at Raera Forest, due west of Ardchonnel, as it would have been too damaging to the landscape.
In March, Mr Stevenson denounced the “vast orgy of destruction” caused by windfarms in a newspaper article, saying the “precious Scottish landscape is being industrialised by turbines”.
Sir Jamie denied hypocrisy and said he had spoken up on behalf of turbine manufacturers as local employers.
“Struan Stevenson has always voiced his opinion against windfarms but our policy is that we are not against them if they are sited appropriately. If sited appropriately I think they’re a window of opportunity for the Highlands and islands.”
RWE declined to comment.
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