A moratorium should be placed on new wind turbine developments until councils are given clearer guidance from government, environment minister Fergus Ewing has been told.
MSPs warned that local communities feel they are “under attack” from energy firms whose desperation to snap up land across Scotland “resembles the prospecting days of the American gold rush”.
Hundreds of local campaigners packed into Holyrood’s public gallery last night and heard warnings that the issue could now threaten flagship government energy policies.
Labour’s Neil Findlay warned that the SNP’s plans to generate 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewables by the end of the decade could be “scuppered” by public anger surrounding the “over-concentration” of wind farms in some areas.
“It resembles the prospecting days of the American gold rush with landowners hawking their land for rental and developers seeing steady treasure in the form of subsidies,” he said.
Mr Findlay warned that after permission was granted for the Black Law wind farm in South Lanarkshire, the area became a “prime target” for developers who have flooded it with 15 applications for more than 250 turbines.
“They’re not motivated by environmental concerns, but by pound notes,” he said.
“Close to the grid and to demand, not a tourist spot, relatively rural and with what they wrongly viewed as a passive, compliant community – this ticked many investment boxes.”
The impact on the landscape is not a “priority consideration” as developments spread, according to the Labour MSP who said the system is “unco-ordinated, unplanned and incoherent.”
Former Holyrood presiding officer Alex Fergusson told MSPs that he rented out land on his farm for seven turbines, so was not an opponent, but added that wind farms are not a cheap form of energy.
“It is massively expensive, it is something for which we’re all paying through the nose through our electricity bills and the energy produced by wind farms would not be produced by any commercial company without the huge subsidies,” he said.
The build-up of wind farms in many areas was becoming “unbearable” for many people living there, Mr Fergusson added.
“The lack of proper guidance to local authorities from government on the siting of wind farms is actually the root cause of much of this anger and frustration.
“The time has come to consider a moratorium on further development until justifiable concerns have been answered.”
Adam Ingram, the SNP MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, voiced concerns about the “damaging impact” of wind farms in the South Carrick area.
The former children’s minister added: “All of these problems are compounded and exacerbated by the scale and rapidity of proposed development.”
He added new sites were “targeted relentlessly by all sorts of wind farm developers, large and small”.
Former Tory leader Annabel Goldie called for a review of energy policy and planning guidance.
“The current position is unsustainable and ludicrous,” she said.
Mr Ewing said that Scottish Natural Heritage will be publishing new guidance on the “cumulative impact” of wind farms, as well as guidance on landscape and siting.
“We have been considering these matters about which people feel very strongly and doing so in some detail,” he added.