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Stacain windfarm rejected for second time

Scottish Minister have again refused consent for the planned 14-turbine Stacain wind farm near Inveraray.

This follows a six-year planning process with two formal public inquiries, centering on whether or not the wind farm would be a threat to golden eagles.

Those in favour of the windfarm had challenged this on the grounds that the pair of eagles sometimes seen on the fringes of the area were elderly and had not produced a chick for something like 15 years.

The Scottish Government has now decided that the installation wojud be a threat to the eagles and the project will not now go ahead.

The proposal by the developer, Bagmoor Wind (an unfortunately gung-ho acquisitive name), would have been located within the Glen Etive and Glen Fyne Special Protection Area (SPA) for Golden Eagles.

If it had been approved, SHN and RSPB determined that it would have posed a significant threat to the birds, with habitat loss and risk of collision with turbines.

A 2008 report from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) found the conservation status of Scotland’s golden eagle population – just over 440 pairs – to be unfavourable.

Nationally, the main threat is seen as coming from illegal killing, often on rogue estates, but wind farm development was identified as an additional factor in two areas – Argyll and in Caithness.

What is needed here is authoritative research evidence demonstrating the actual relationship between raptors and wind turbines.

Solid facts on this are remarkably thin on the ground. For example, as we understand it, SNH does not have a single up to date database on the whereabouts and numbers of the raptor population in Scotland. This is the result of historical data kept in a variety of formats and a dependence in some measure on random sightings reported by reliable witnesses.

Neither the conservation of important species nor the development of a nationally critical industry should be constrained by such an ad hoc and evidentially insecure scenario.

This insecurity of evidence does no favours for the conservation case as it is then left to assumptions rather than verified probabilities.

This then leads to a widening gulf between conservationists and pro-renewables when, if incontrovertible evidence existed one way or the other, inappropriate proposals would not come forwards and others would not have to fear the conservationist dismissal.