Among the many dilemmas facing the new Government is whether to award multimillionaire financier Christopher Moran £21 million of electricity consumers’ cash for allowing a wind farm on his 49,000 acre Glenfiddich and Cabrach estate in Moray.
The cash is the Moran estate’s probable share of the spoils should ministers give the 59-turbine wind farm its blessing this summer. Which they probably will.
On the one hand the Government wants every turbine it can muster to meet a 100 per cent renewable energy target by 2020.
But on the other, Moran’s reputation as a landowner in Scotland is possibly worse than his reputation in the financial worlds of London, where he was banned from Lloyds’ insurance market, and New York, where he was fined $2 million for insider trading.
According to the RSPB, from 1992-2006 Moran’s estate on which he invites guests to shoot grouse was the scene of numerous breaches of wildlife laws.
In just five months in 1998 an inquiry by the RSPB and police recorded ten incidents.
Estate gamekeepers were successfully prosecuted for wildlife offences in 1998, and 2006.
Since then the Scottish government has taken an increasingly tough line on wildlife crime, particularly the poisoning of raptors on grouse moors.
A crackdown has recently seen a string of Scottish gamekeepers in court on wildlife offences involving birds of prey. And landowners even suspected of allowing dodgy practices can have their EU agricultural subsidies cut.
So any whiff of impropriety on an estate should be enough to rule out the considerable awards that a wind farm brings to a landowner.
After all, the SNH report Conservation Framework for Golden Eagles firmly pointed the finger at illegal persecution for the shortage of nesting eagles, harriers and peregrines in the glens that include Cabrach and Glenfiddich.
Golden eagle guru Roy Dennis MBE, credited with reintroducing ospreys to Britain, told a public inquiry held last year that the area should be prime nesting territory for birds of prey.
Given the above, one might think that SNH, as this nation’s guardian of the countryside, might have lodged an objection to the wind farm, as it was entitled to, on the grounds that there was an excellent chance of the birds recolonising the old territories and nests if left in peace. Indeed, young eagles from Cairngorm National Park have been tracked to the wind farm site.
So it must have come as a bit of a relief to both the wind-obsessed Government and estate when SNH failed to lodge an objection to the development for the very good reason that the wind farm was not in one of its own Special Protection Areas for eagles. And the reason it was not in an SPA was because there were no eagles left to protect. Brilliant.
This article was first published in The Scotsman, 25 June, 2011