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Debate in Scottish Parliament  

Credit:  Communities Against Turbines Scotland, www.communitiesagainstturbinesscotland.com ~~

Wind Farms (Impact on Communities)
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith):
The final item of business is a member’s business debate on motion S4M-01284, in the name of Neil Findlay, on community benefit and the cumulative impact of wind farm developments in communities.

The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated:
That the Parliament notes the contribution that renewable energy plays and will play in providing for Scotland and the UK’s energy needs; recognises that the Scottish Government’s route map for renewable energy sets a target of 100% of electricity demand equivalent from renewables by 2020; notes concerns about the ability of communities, such as Harburn in West Lothian and other communities across the southern border of West Lothian, to resist overconcentration and raise the issue of cumulative development in specific locations; expresses concern at the lack of genuine community and cooperative ownership and the increasing role of multinationals and venture capital firms in securing the profits from onshore wind projects, and would welcome a wider community benefit and lower cumulative impact of windfarm developments in communities.

17:05 Neil Findlay (Lothian) (Lab):
Given that energy provision is critical to local, national and international development, I am very pleased to be able to introduce what is a much needed debate.

Amid concerns about climate change and global warming, it is vital to develop renewable energy.

However, as much as it is right to increase renewable energy capacity, it is also right to discuss serious concerns about how that increased capacity has developed in practice.

My motion expresses two main concerns about the development of our renewable capacity:
first, the overconcentration of wind farms in certain areas, which runs alongside the lack of engagement with, and involvement of, communities; and secondly the ownership of wind farm projects and the risk of losing the potential to create jobs and opportunities.

The Scottish Government set itself a very ambitious target of producing 100 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

On the face of it, that target is laudable and, if it were to be achieved, it would make Scotland a world leader in the field.

However, it is my view—and the view of a growing number of people in Scotland—that that lofty ambition could be scuppered by some fundamental flaws in policy and practice.

One of Scotland’s most significant onshore projects, the large Iberdrola Renewables Black Law wind farm, is located in my council ward.

Originally, the application got through the planning system without a single objection from my community; people recognised the need to support renewables and saw the wind farm as a positive development.

However, what happened after that permission was granted should serve as a warning to us all.

After that first application, the area has become a prime target for developers that are motivated not by environmental concerns but by pound notes.

Close to the grid and to demand, not a tourist spot—indeed, it is relatively rural—and with what the developers wrongly viewed as a passive and compliant community, the area ticked many investment boxes and the first application was quickly followed by two applications for extensions and a raft of applications from other developers on nearby sites.

Today, there are 15 applications for more than 250 turbines running the length of the county border from North Lanarkshire through West Lothian to the north Pentlands and Edinburgh’s south-westerly fringe.

Despite what the guidance says, the cumulative impact on the landscape appears not to be a priority consideration.

Instead, what is happening is uncoordinated, unplanned and incoherent and resembles the prospecting days of the American gold rush, with landowners hawking their land for rental and developers seeing shiny treasure in the form of subsidies from renewables obligation certificates and feed-in tariffs.

Local authorities with little expertise in wind energy have been swamped by application after application, but have no co-ordinated regional or national spatial plan identifying preferred areas; indeed, some do not have even a local spatial plan.

Crucially, there is no test of landscape capacity on which to base an assessment.

The current guidance is weak and has not been applied rigorously enough.

Scottish Natural Heritage’s landscape character assessment and landscape capacity guidance states:
“The cumulative effect of inappropriately sited multiple wind farm development could create the perception of a landscape dominated by wind farms”.

That is exactly what is happening now.

National spatial planning and a capacity test would give communities some protection from overconcentration and the industry some confidence about where to invest.

Both the community and the industry want this approach.

The 2010 good practice wind project was set up to develop good practice in reconciling the objectives of renewable energy with wider environmental objectives and promoting communities’ active involvement in planning and implementation.

That seems to me to be a recognition that communities have not been genuinely involved.

How are our communities being affected? My experience over the past 10 years suggests that the current laissez-faire approach is ostracising people.

People who were previously evangelical about the benefits of wind energy have become organised, vocal and ardent opponents of further development.

If that one issue—overconcentration in certain locations—is not addressed urgently and sensitively, opposition to the Scottish Government’s drive for more land-based wind energy generation will increase, the whole strategy will unravel and the public will turn against it.

If the minister takes nothing else from today’s debate, I ask him please to listen to communities on that specific issue.

There are serious questions in relation to equality-of-arms issues and environmental justice.

I do not have time to go into those in detail, but they are significant issues.

Ownership and funding require discussion.

The development of wind farms is dominated by multinationals and venture capital firms that see Scotland’s wind as their latest commodity, and will do whatever it takes, including trampling over the concerns of communities, to take advantage of the significant profits that are open to them.

Those companies often set up small localised companies as a front for their projects or as a conduit to secure planning permission before buying up the consented site.

Community benefit schemes exist, but the sums involved are a drop in the ocean compared to the money that is being made by the French, Italian, Spanish and Danish giants that dominate the scene.

A robust community benefit strategy could result in cash, as well as electricity, being generated for communities and public services.

The £70 million national renewables infrastructure plan gives cash to promote private sector investment in renewables.

In effect, it is another subsidy.

Contrast that with the paltry £5.

35 million in loans—not grants—that is being provided for community and co-operative renewables schemes.

I believe that that massive imbalance is a real missed opportunity.

If communities were in control or in genuine partnership, they would be more involved and would have more ownership of projects.

There are serious concerns about the current renewables policy; we need only look to the public gallery to see that.

I am sure that all the people are here not to listen to my sparkling rhetoric, but because they are concerned about their communities.

We need a policy that places communities at the heart of the renewables drive, with a national spatial plan that avoids overconcentration and results in the local host communities enjoying the benefits.

I thank the members who supported my motion—those of my party and Margo MacDonald, Mary Scanlon, Alex Fergusson and Jim Hume.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
The debate is heavily subscribed and many members wish to speak.

If members keep to speeches of a maximum of four minutes, I hope that we will get everyone in, but I would appreciate it if speeches were of less than four minutes, if possible.

17:12 Adam Ingram (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (SNP):
I congratulate Neil Findlay on securing the debate.

I am happy to support the motion as, in my view, its terms strike an appropriate balance in what has become an increasingly fractious debate between proponents and opponents of wind farm development.

I confess to being turned off by the extreme hostility of opponents such as Struan Stevenson MEP, who not only belittle the benefits that are to be gained from harnessing wind power, but mendaciously claim that the switch to renewables is the root cause of higher fuel bills and rates of fuel poverty.

The same folk, mind you, would happily accept the public paying through the nose for a new generation of nuclear reactors, and would pass on a hugely hazardous legacy to future generations.

Wind power is clearly not an all-encompassing solution that can replace all other forms of electricity generation.

However, it will play a significant role in our efforts to tackle climate change and reduce our CO2 emissions, while ensuring energy security in future decades.

That said, proponents of wind power tend to dismiss the problems that are associated with wind farm development and to dismiss local protesters as selfish nimbys.

I find that attitude equally unacceptable.

I have seen for myself, particularly in the south Carrick area of my constituency, the damaging impact that inappropriate siting of turbines can have on the wellbeing of residents and communities who are in close proximity, whether that be from noise, shadow flicker or visual amenity issues.

On top of that, there are genuine concerns about the impact on property values and on tourism-related businesses.

All those problems are compounded and exacerbated by the scale and rapidity of the proposed development.

South Carrick is beginning to resemble a new Klondike.

It is being targeted relentlessly by all sorts of wind farm developers, large and small, who are keen to exploit the opportunities that have been opened up to them.

I am concerned that the impetus of making a fast buck is overtaking a planned development process.

In these circumstances, I want to see tighter control by planning authorities to prevent what the motion calls “overconcentration” of development.

The assessment of cumulative impact becomes.

I am not convinced that planning authorities are geared up to handle the pressures, so I seek an assurance from the minister that Scottish Government support is all that it should be in the circumstances.

With regard to extracting community benefits from wind farm development, again I broadly agree that they should not be limited to what the Klondikers are willing to concede to local communities.

I would be grateful if the minister could respond to the call that is being made by many people, including Maitland Mackie, to set up planning procedures that are designed to facilitate local consortia of businesses, landowners and community organisations seeking ownership of the renewable energy potential of their own land and landscapes.

Surely it makes sense to retain as much as possible of the lucrative returns from wind farm development locally, thereby regenerating rural economies in the process.

17:16 Graeme Pearson (South Scotland) (Lab):
Members will know that I have worked behind the scenes to ensure that Neil Findlay’s motion was lodged for discussion today, and I am heartily pleased at the number of members who have turned up to engage in the debate.

It will be hard, in four minutes, to pull together all that I have learned in the past six months about the issue.

Suffice it to say that, in coming to the Parliament, I took a neutral view on the pros and cons of renewable energy, and of wind farms in particular.

I have come to learn, however, from the communities across South Scotland about many of the issues that disturb them.

I have also learned of their feeling that they are just not being listened to, and that the Parliament and politicians in general do not want to hear what they have to say.

It speaks volumes that so many people have made the effort to come to the chamber at 5 o’clock in the evening, given the challenges of the traffic and the road conditions at this time of year.

That should illustrate that they are here not solely for themselves but for the thousands of people across the various constituencies in Scotland for whom this is not an imagined problem.

I am somewhat concerned that a document that has been published by Scottish Renewables—which I understand to be a private company, or at least a pressure group—has been tendered at the back of our chamber alongside official documents.

It gives me a lead-in to some comments that I want to make, however, and the Presiding Officer can be sure that I will write to her later to check whether it is appropriate that such documents be laid in our chamber.

The document states:
“Wind works”.

The evidence that has been given to me from the community is that wind works to a certain extent.

The claimed efficiency of 30 per cent can sometimes fall to below 20 per cent, and most people in the chamber will have had experience of it not working at all.

However, the public purse still pays, via the consumer.

The document also states:
“Wind is not expensive”.

As Adam Ingram said, however, all energy has to be paid for, and according to The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, wind power is subsidised at a rate of £100 or more per consumer.

The document also states:
“Wind cuts CO2 emissions”.

So do other renewables opportunities, however.

It goes on:
“Wind farms do not harm tourism or property prices”.

Adam Ingram has already given an account of their impact in South Scotland, and evidence across the UK indicates that they have an impact elsewhere.

The document goes on to state:
“Wind is a major contributor to the economy”.

It might well be a contributor in the short term, during the building of the farms, but thereafter, the jobs and economy that will survive on the back of that will largely be overseas, not within Scotland’s boundaries.

The document also states:
“The environmental impacts of onshore wind are limited and managed”.

The planning arrangements across Scotland are, as has been described by others, chaotic.

Wind farms end up being placed where the entrepreneurs in that Klondike environment think the most profits can be achieved—not where they best serve the public or support our communities and environment.

Finally, the document states:
“Wind farms are not noisy”.

I visited a part of South Scotland and listened to the wind farms.

They are noisy and they create an environment in which people who live near them can be affected by illness.

We have health and environmental impacts—The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I am afraid you have five seconds in which to conclude.

Graeme Pearson:
We also have problems with noise and flicker.

We are at the first stage of the opening up of this debate and I look forward to the minister giving serious consideration to the current situation.

[Applause.]

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I cannot let members go over four minutes, and I must ask spectators in the public gallery not to clap.

17:21 John Lamont (Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire) (Con):
I congratulate Neil Findlay on securing this important and timely debate.

I am pleased to support the motion.

I welcome a large number of my constituents to the public gallery.

Many of my constituents feel that their communities are coming under attack as wind farm developers submit more and more speculative applications for industrial wind farms.

From the outset, I should make clear that I am not against all wind farms.

Indeed, as a farmer’s son, I can see and understand why farmers, other landowners and communities would want to generate extra income by having a wind farm on their land.

What I am against is the current Government’s obsession with wind energy over all other energy sources and the lack of any coherent strategy to ensure that wind farms are put in appropriate locations.

Although attaining clean, renewable energy sources should always remain a priority for Scotland, current strategies excessively burden communities, outweighing any possible benefits.

The Scottish Government has set an ambitious target of sourcing all our electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

That ambitious target has placed greater emphasis on the role that wind power will play in achieving that target.

By increasing the role that wind power plays in meeting our electricity needs, the Scottish Government has in effect restricted the expansion of other forms of renewable energy.

Wind power is not, and should not be, the only solution.

What annoys me and many of my constituents is the failure of the planning system to deal with the legitimate concerns of residents about wind farms in their areas.

Dave Thompson (Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch) (SNP):
Will the member give way?

John Lamont:
I want to make some progress.

In many cases, a wind farm application might be opposed by residents, the community council, the locally elected councillors, the council’s planning officials and the local planning committee, yet the developer may then appeal to a Scottish Government-appointed reporter who will quite often impose the will of the Scottish Government and approve the application.

No wonder so many Scots feel that the planning system is stacked against them when it comes to wind farm applications.

The other frustration that I have is that, by focusing on wind energy, the Scottish Government is failing to plan to provide Scotland with a secure energy supply.

We should not forget that nuclear power currently provides a large proportion of our electricity needs, yet the Scottish National Party has no plan for nuclear power in its energy strategy.

We should also not forget that nuclear power provides thousands of high-tech jobs, which facilitate the retention of engineering talent within Scotland—and, more particularly, in my constituency.

Despite what the SNP Government might say about the safety of nuclear power, the fact remains that Scotland is one of the world’s safest nuclear power providers.

While the wind may not blow, nuclear provides a reliable and secure energy supply.

In the remaining time available to me, I want to touch on a couple of economic factors around wind farms.

Over the next decade, billions of pounds-worth of taxpayers’ money will be channelled into subsidies for wind farms, effectively raising energy prices for hard-working Scots.

Fuel poverty is a serious issue in Scotland.

Cold winters coupled with rising energy costs have led many Scots to make difficult choices between essential purchases and staying warm.

Questions must be raised about whether it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to support wind energy while pushing up energy prices.

Lastly, greater consideration needs to be given to the impact of wind farms on our tourism industry.

Tourism’s value to the Scottish economy is comparable to that of energy, yet the relentless push of wind farms puts that in jeopardy.

I urge the Government to use common sense in setting targets, because unrealistic targets lead to rushed choices on renewable energy.

The Scottish Government should think again.

17:25 Paul Wheelhouse (South Scotland) (SNP):
I welcome the debate and thank Neil Findlay for bringing it to the chamber today, because it raises very important issues on both community benefit and the cumulative impact of wind farms.

Neil Findlay:
Will the member give way?

Paul Wheelhouse:
I do not have time; I am sorry.

I am speaking in my capacity as a representative of the south of Scotland and a resident of eastern Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders.

I acknowledge the very many e-mails and letters that I have received from constituents who have raised concerns with me regarding local projects, and I will come to areas in which I share their concerns.

However, I value wind energy as an important element in our energy supply now and we will need it to play an even greater role in the future.

I hope that much of that need can be met by meeting our 500MW community renewables target by 2020.

The majority of future wind energy projects are likely, in terms of scale, to be developed offshore.

When sites are chosen onshore, that needs to be done with care and ideally with community involvement on site selection.

I agree with Neil Findlay on that.

When that happens, the impacts on adjacent communities can be minimised.

Scottish Government community and renewable energy scheme grants will help to achieve the objective of maximising community ownership.

I believe that we are witnessing man-made climate change.

It is important to put that on the record, because some of the opposition to wind farms seems to take the view that climate change is not a real and current danger to our communities.

I recognise that wind energy is, by its nature, intermittent and that that is an issue, but there is every reason to believe that we can overcome intermittency in the future through breakthroughs in the design of storage capability, such as the hydrogen fuel cell technology that is being researched at Fife Energy Park and tie-ins with hydro schemes.

The challenge that we face as a nation is threefold.

We need to protect our environment, provide a sustainable energy supply and address our obligations to tackle climate change.

Scotland is undoubtedly witnessing a renewables revolution and, particularly as projects move offshore, we can expect substantial numbers of green economy jobs to be created in response.

However, when it comes to onshore wind farm activity at a local level, we are witnessing—as others, including Adam Ingram, have referred to—what can only be described as a Klondike gold rush, with many speculators seemingly scouring the countryside to tempt landowners with lucrative rental agreements.

Community interests have often been an afterthought for both parties in the Borders.

From the many e-mails that I have received, I know that that sentiment is felt equally in areas such as the Rhins of Galloway and around Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway – all such areas face an unprecedented rush of applications.

Neil Findlay:
Will the member give way?

Paul Wheelhouse:
I am sorry; I have a lot to get through.

There are many exemplars in the industry who take seriously their obligations to pre-application community and stakeholder consultation, but unfortunately there are others who do not.

We need to emphasise good practice and encourage it where we can.

I shall use my final minute to highlight the scale of the problem.

In the Scottish Borders and the eastern Lammermuir area of East Lothian there are 242 turbines producing 427MW of capacity for 238,650 homes.

That assumes full installed capacity and, as we know, there is intermittency, but even if we allow for intermittency and a 30 per cent utilisation rate, that is 72,000 homes.

The total number of houses in the Scottish borders is 52,000.

We are therefore already seeing that the Scottish Borders is pulling its weight in terms of providing wind farms and wind energy for Scotland.

Therefore, before any further applications are received—and there are many in the pipeline—we are doing our bit.

There are 175 further turbines approved, of which 94 are on sites of more than 5MW.

We have to take very seriously the public concerns about cumulative impact.

In the Borders and in Dumfries and Galloway, it is clear that there are increasing numbers of people among the silent majority who are coming over to oppose wind farms.

We need to take that on board.

17:29 Claudia Beamish (South Scotland) (Lab):
I thank the Presiding Officer for giving me the opportunity to speak in this important debate on our sustainable future.

I am surprised that Paul Wheelhouse did not sign the motion.

Twenty years ago, as a community councillor and local activist living in the heart of the Scottish coal reserves in South Lanarkshire, I, along with others, took to the then Scottish Office arguments for cumulative effect to be taken into account when opencast mining applications were considered.

I support the highlighting by Neil Findlay and others of the landscape capacity concerns associated with wind farm developments.

As with opencast mining, applications for wind farms are an environmental justice issue.

On access to information, consideration of support with costs and legal representation, there must be compliance with the United Nations Aarhus convention, which helps to ensure the creation of a more level playing field between communities and developers.

In communities across South Scotland, there is a lot of interest in small-scale renewables projects.

I ask the Scottish Government to increase the provision of advice and to provide a huge increase in the financial support that is available to households and communities so that they can keep more power under their own control and, where appropriate, sell it back to the grid.

We all know that wind power is not a catch-all solution.

I urge everyone who is concerned about the proliferation of wind farms to emphasise to their representatives that it is imperative that Scottish Government funding is in place to support research and development to drive forward new marine renewables technology and other renewables technologies.

If we are to meet the climate change targets that have been highlighted, including that of providing 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources, it is essential that we have some largescale generation of renewable energy.

Some of that will have to be in the form of onshore wind, but communities are disconnected from the generation of their own power by large multinationals putting in applications for nearby areas.

As a member of the Co-operative group of MSPs, I want to highlight the co-operative model.

Renewable energy is capital intensive and requires equity as well as loan finance.

Community co-ops raise equity by allowing ordinary people to invest in their own energy generation.

That model works well in Denmark, Spain and other parts of Europe.

I have highlighted that in writing to the minister in relation to the development of the community and renewable energy scheme fund, and I hope to have continuing dialogue on that so that communities can be more in control of their own power generation.

Where communities do not own wind farms, there should be clear national guidelines on community benefit; the existing guidelines should be much clearer and much more transparent.

For the communities that have the chance, there is, of course, an opportunity to improve local amenities, but I propose the stipulation in the guidelines of a social section, whereby communities would be expected to use some of the funds to support the vulnerable—for example, free electricity could be provided to pensioners.

Alternatively, universal measures could be taken, as the Fintry Development Trust has done, whereby audited homes were given free insulation measures that saved householders an average of £600 on annual fuel bills and which cut fuel poverty in the process.

All development has an environmental and financial cost as well as benefits.

For instance, when calculating the real cost of nuclear power, account must be taken of the waste that it leaves behind; I hope that John Lamont will acknowledge that.

Proper account is not taken of that at the moment.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I am afraid that the member must conclude.

Claudia Beamish:
Therefore, we must support the fair sharing of costs across communities throughout Scotland.

Environmental justice must be at the heart of the process as we move forward on wind power.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Given the number of members who still wish to speak, I am minded to accept a motion without notice to extend the debate by up to 30 minutes.

Motion moved,That, under Rule 8.14.3, the debate be extended by up to 30 minutes.—[Neil Findlay.]
Motion agreed to.

17:34 Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con):
I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests, in which they will see that I receive an annual fixed rental for seven turbines that are part of Hadyard Hill wind farm in south Ayrshire, so I begin from the position that I am not against wind farms in principle.

However, wind farm development is a hugely topical subject.

The motion covers the issue that is most consistently raised with me in my capacity as the constituency member for Galloway and West Dumfries.

I am sure that the First Minister will recall his Cabinet’s meeting in Stranraer last summer, which was, on the whole, well received and very welcome.

My abiding memory is of something that happened during the two-hour-long public question-and-answer session in the afternoon.

Three quarters of the way through that session, a slightly critical question was asked about the Scottish Government’s drive to develop wind farms.

For the one and only time in that two-hour session, the audience spontaneously burst into vigorous applause—not some of them, but all of them—and that applause was sustained.

The First Minister’s response was interesting.

Although I paraphrase this slightly, he said effectively, “Wind is free and if you want the jobs you must put up with the wind farms.”

Wind itself may be free—so are oil and gas—but harnessing them most certainly is not free.

It is massively expensive; it is something for which we are all paying through the nose through our electricity bills.

The energy that is produced by wind farms would not be produced by any normal commercial company without the huge subsidies that are raised through those electricity bills.

Free it most certainly is not.

I have to ask the minister what jobs the First Minister was referring to.

Yes, there are consultants all over the place and there are some civil engineering jobs during the construction phase of any wind farm, but there are no residual employment benefits for the communities that are increasingly dominated by these installations—none.

Neil Findlay:
Will the member give way?

Alex Fergusson:
I am sorry.

I would like to take interventions, but, as the Presiding Officer has made obvious, we are horribly tight for time.

We have to ask ourselves, is it any wonder that people get upset and very angry when they realise how much subsidy is required to make this technology viable; or when they read of millions of pounds being paid to operators to turn their turbines off because the grid is at full capacity; or when a minister proudly declares that a new wind farm will power 200,000 homes, when we all now know that wind farms never work at more than around 30 per cent of capacity and that it will therefore power only some 70,000 homes, and intermittently at that; or when a local authority rejects an application only for the developer to appeal to the Scottish Government and, often, have the decision overruled? Time is tight, so I will conclude by suggesting that the continuing lack of any proper guidance to local authorities from Government on the siting of wind farms is the root cause of much of the anger and frustration.

The cumulative impact of more and more wind farms is becoming almost unbearable for some people—in fact, I would suggest, for an increasing number of people.

I respectfully suggest to the Government that the time has come to consider a moratorium on further development until people’s justifiable concerns have been addressed.

The saddest fact in all this is that most people who are anti-wind farm are not against renewable energy, but the two are becoming increasingly conflated.

It might soon become impossible to promote the latter without addressing many of the concerns that have been raised tonight about the former.

17:37 Kenneth Gibson (Cunninghame North) (SNP):
I congratulate Neil Findlay on securing the debating time and on a very thoughtful speech on an issue in which I have had personal involvement for the past few years.

Indeed, members of the save your regional park campaign, whom I have met on many occasions, have taken the trouble to travel through to follow the debate.

I have to say that Alex Fergusson really took the biscuit when he denounced wind farms after admitting that he has seven turbines on his land.

It seems to be a case of, “I’m all right, Jack, but let’s pull up the ladder after me.”

I am happy to take an intervention if he wants to make one, but that is an appalling position to take.

Alex Fergusson:
I hope that Mr Gibson will accept that I did not denounce wind farms.

I am not against wind farms in principle.

However, I believe that there is a lot of concern about their siting, on which there is a lack of guidance.

Many other concerns have been raised perfectly reasonably tonight.

Let us keep this debate reasonable.

Kenneth Gibson:
Alex Fergusson wants a moratorium—after his turbines have been installed.

Despite the many differences between members and political parties throughout the chamber, I believe that we can agree on two things:
first, renewable energy is the future of energy production across the globe; and, secondly, Scotland is home to some of the most beautiful and breathtaking landscape scenery anywhere.

Therefore, while wishing fully to embrace the renewables revolution and secure Scotland’s position as a pioneer in developing such technology, we must be mindful of the effect that that might have on our natural heritage.

For that reason, in 2009 I sought to introduce a member’s bill on protecting Scotland’s regional parks, which was supported by the Scottish National Party and Conservative groups in the chamber.

Much of Scotland’s largest regional park, Clyde Muirshiel, falls within my constituency.

Many residents around the park were concerned about proposals to develop wind turbines in it.

In my view, the purpose of creating regional parkland is to protect landscape of particular natural beauty for recreational, scenic, farming and forestry purposes.

Therefore, although I support the construction of on-shore wind turbines where the community supports that, I do not believe that they should be constructed in regional parks or areas where the community opposes them.

Given that energy policy is still reserved to Westminster, my bill sought to prohibit any industrial development within regional parks that was contrary to assisting the park authority to achieve its adopted aims, which would primarily prevent the significant adverse impacts caused by the construction and operation of wind farms.

However, it would also have supported local councils in holding back the advances of other interests while allowing utilities to provide essential infrastructure where necessary.

Unfortunately, while I was led to believe that the process would be relatively straightforward, despite full consultation the bill was eventually deemed not to fall within the competence of this Parliament and I was unable to progress it.

Such are the vagaries of the Scotland Act 1998.

The outcome was deeply disappointing for those who campaign against the construction of wind farms in such areas and for people now and in the future who wish to know that regional parks will be maintained in such a way as to safeguard their scenic beauty and recreational purpose.

In reality, the majority of Scotland’s renewable energy will come from future offshore wind turbines and the rapid improvement in design and capacity of wave and tidal technologies.

I am therefore confident that the issue of the “overconcentration” of wind farms to which Neil Findlay refers will recede.

In his motion, Neil Findlay wisely points to the issue of communities reaping the benefits of wind farm developments.

I could not agree more, and I believe that the minister will have something to say on that matter, so I will not steal his thunder—well, not too much.

I am sure that all members were delighted to hear today’s announcement by Scottish and Southern Energy that it is launching a new Scotland sustainable energy fund, which is set to be worth more than £90 million over the next 25 years.

That new move is calculated to increase the benefit enjoyed by local communities to the equivalent of £5,000 per megawatt produced for all new onshore wind farms constructed in Scotland from the new year onwards.

Neil Findlay:
Will the member give way? Kenneth Gibson:
I apologise—I would like to, but I do not have time.

That is equivalent to double the amount currently invested by the company.

We have no choice but to embrace the future that is renewable energy, as ultimately all other forms of energy are finite.

Although we may differ when it comes to ambition and the pace at which we should expand and invest, I am happy that we can agree that we must preserve our unique and beautiful landscape and secure the maximum benefit for Scotland’s communities.

17:41 Jim Hume (South Scotland) (LD):
The Scottish Government has committed itself to ambitious climate change targets and to producing all Scotland’s electricity from renewables by 2020.

On both counts, there is much to be done.

The latest data on Scotland’s carbon emissions revealed an unfortunate increase of 9 per cent in 2010.

Just as unfortunate is the net loss of forestry that we will experience this year due to the felling of trees for the purpose of wind farm developments.

I have been inundated with correspondence from constituents throughout the south of Scotland since the debate was confirmed; such is the strength of feeling on the matter.

I hear loud and clear from constituents who say that they do not object to wind farms in principle but that they must be more appropriately sited, and I agree.

We should note that the south of Scotland is home to two extremely contentious wind farm developments in the shape of Fallago Rig and Drone Hill.

Both developments were rejected by the public and the local planning authority, only for the Government to run roughshod over local democracy and approve them.

As John Lamont knows, that has not been forgotten in Berwickshire.

I have heard from one couple who run a holiday cottage in the Creetown area that, should the two wind farms that are in development near their home be built, their customers will no longer use their cottage.

I understand that more than 800 turbines are at various stages in Dumfries and Galloway Council’s planning system, which provides an effective illustration of the overconcentration referred to in the motion—Mr Gibson should not wait too long for the issue to recede, because it is already here.

The status quo must change.

Developments are too often led by private companies that act in the interests of stakeholders and pay scant regard to the appropriate siting of proposed wind farms.

There are ambitious targets to be met and it is right that wind farms should, along with other forms of energy generation, play some part in meeting them.

However, it is time that the Government gave serious consideration to the cumulative effect on communities of nearby wind farm developments.

Issues such as shadow flicker, ice throw, noise and landscape impairment are problems for many Scots.

During my time as a member of the Scottish Parliament in both this session and the previous one, I have on several occasions called on the relevant minister of the day to formulate a national strategy to oversee such developments to help restore public confidence in the planning system.

I do so yet again.

There is no statutory minimum distance between turbines and properties; there is merely guidance in Scottish planning policy.

There is also no statutory requirement for a pre-application consultation or a pre-determination hearing for developments under an installed capacity of 20MW.

The guidelines for noise are 15 years out of date and do not take into account the more powerful turbines that we see today.

We also need provisions to protect people whose business or property may be devalued by development, such as in the case of my constituents in Creetown.

It is clear that current planning regulation is not robust enough to safeguard communities that are in the shadow of inappropriate developments.

Only a national strategy can plug the gaps in legislation and provide more transparency and protection for the public.

I look forward to hearing of some progress when the minister sums up the debate.

17:45 Chic Brodie (South Scotland) (SNP):
I, too, welcome the debate and I congratulate Neil Findlay on bringing it to the chamber.

In my six months as an MSP, nothing has generated so much—forgive me—heat as this issue has done in the south of Scotland.

I attended a public meeting in Ballantrae and the communities against turbines conference in Ayr.

I must say that I was received on both occasions with courtesy despite my divergent views.

I welcome some of those who attended those events, who are here in the public gallery.

I have also met individuals and tomorrow morning, I will have the first of several planned and still-to-be planned meetings with councils across the Borders on the matter.

I make two things very clear.

First, I am for planned wind energy both onshore and offshore—I believe that offshore is the more important resource, but both are necessary components of what is and will be a planned, balanced energy policy to secure 100 per cent of our electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

Onshore wind will play a role in meeting that target.

Secondly, I believe that for generations to come securing our ability to control our own power sources will be a critical factor in controlling our economy and all its sectors going forward.

Given that objective, I fear that the rationale, the debate and the clinical assessment of need have been drowned out by the cacophony of noise that comes from some opponents in the argument—and from proponents.

A four-minute speech does not provide nearly enough time to rehearse arguments—pro and con—on whether wind power works or whether it is more costly when compared with nuclear and nuclear decommissioning.

We could spend days arguing about whether the Westminster Government’s lack of strategic pricing in relation to ROCs and feed-in tariffs has created a rush of people who want to make a fortune from land use.

Beneficiaries might now include the royal household, through the receipt of profits from the Crown estate.

The categorisation of disposable argument on wind farms goes on beyond tourism—Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
Will the member take an intervention?
Chic Brodie:
No, I do not have time—I am sorry.

There are also arguments about economic benefits, noise and health issues, environmental challenges and climate change benefits.

My immediate concern and purpose, apart from ensuring that the noise and the emotion are removed from the debate, are to ensure that the Government’s objectives and targets are understood and that there is compliance with planning guidelines, planning processes and the national planning framework.

I also want to ensure that communities’ concerns are addressed and that local planning officials adhere to Scottish Government planning policy.

For example, we must ensure that the National Grid, in its involvement in current and proposed developments regarding transmission capacity, plays a bigger part in the planning process.

We must also ensure that the policies set out in the national planning framework, Scottish planning policy, planning advice, development plans and supplementary guidance are all material considerations in the discussion and decisionmaking processes affecting both large and smallscale developments.

It is absolutely essential and in the national interest that, as the Government initially planned, people at the local level also consider the cumulative impact on communities and individuals.

By turning down the noise and through logical debate and analysis, all interests will be embraced and we will achieve something meaningful together.

Jamie McGrigor (Highlands and Islands) (Con):
On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The previous member might have misled Parliament when he said that revenues from the Crown estate go to the royal family.

In fact, they go to the Treasury.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
You have put your point on the record, Mr McGrigor.

17:50 Elaine Murray (Dumfriesshire) (Lab):
I congratulate Neil Findlay on bringing a topic to a member’s business debate that a large number of members feel strongly about.

The issue has been a difficult one for many of us.

There have been times when people who have said that there were problems with wind turbine developments have been said to be climate change deniers or not in favour of renewable energy, when that was not the case.

However, we have to accept that there are significant problems with the dash for wind that has occurred over the past several years.

In Dumfriesshire, my constituents are concerned not so much about wind farms as about the overconcentration of onshore wind farm applications that are now coming into the constituency.

Many of my constituents, who, like Neil Findlay’s constituents, did not object to the original wind farm applications, now object to the number that are coming in on the back of those original developments.

They have said, “Haven’t we done our bit here? We’ve already got all these wind farms. Do we need more?”

It sounds as if many others, certainly in the south of Scotland, are having the same experience.

Jim Hume mentioned two applications in his area.

The straw that broke my back was the Harestanes application that came in before 2007.

That application was for a massive industrial development of turbines striding across the hills over Moffat that was almost universally opposed by my constituents.

I went to a public meeting about it that was mobbed by objectors, including members of the Green Party.

Unfortunately, that development got permission in 2007 after the election.

I felt slightly worried when I saw that there was one application in Alex Salmond’s constituency, one in John Swinney’s constituency, one in Karen Gillon’s constituency and one in my constituency.

Unfortunately, Karen and I lost out.

The Harestanes development is going to happen.

However, it does not stop there.

Applications are constantly being made for developments all the way up the Nith valley and right across the southern uplands.

I do not want to look across the southern uplands and see them totally covered with wind farms.

I support renewable energy but I do not want to see the destruction of our natural environment.

I agree with the John Muir Trust that we should preserve our wild land, which is vitally important for recreation and our wellbeing.

Let us preserve the habitats of some of our iconic species.

We have to get the correct balance.

Everyone who knows me knows that, since 1999, I have consistently argued for a balanced energy policy that includes nuclear energy.

I am not going to rehearse the many arguments that I have made about that—I know that the governing party will not agree with me; in fact, some people in my own party do not agree with me.

However, we need a policy that will keep the lights on and enable us to develop the political will to ensure that appropriate renewable energy is being developed rather than rushing for wind because it is easier.

We also need to invest in carbon capture and storage technologies that will enable us to use some of our other natural resources; we need to press ahead with that.

Some people have talked about offshore wind farming as if that is going to be easy, but just bunging the turbines into the sea is not going to get rid of all the problems.

There are issues about the use of the sea, what people can see, tourism and all the other uses to which we put the sea that we discussed when passing the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

Onshore and offshore technologies are easy and lucrative options for large multinational companies.

I sometimes think that when those companies look at the Scottish hills all they see are pound signs.

We have to make those options less attractive than other things such as investment in energy efficiency, low-carbon and active travel, and community and individual initiatives.

I was upset by the way in which the UK Government changed the feed-in tariffs.

We have to look at all the options and not just rush for wind, because it has caused a number of problems.

17:54 Murdo Fraser (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Con):

I commend Neil Findlay for securing the debate.

The attendance in the chamber and in the gallery is testament to how seriously the issue is treated by members and by the public.

In Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Fife, this is a live issue for many of the communities that I represent.

I will make three points in the short space of time that is available to me.

The first is on the cost of wind power.

As Alex Fergusson pointed out, wind power is not free but, like all renewable energy, is subsidised.

Indeed, renewable energy is the most subsidised form of energy production.

We are all paying for it.

Even Scottish Renewables concedes in its briefing paper that the subsidy per bill payer will be £50 per annum by 2016.

Others have put the figure higher.

That is a flat rate that is payable by all.

It is a regressive tax that hits the poorest the hardest.

In any other sphere of activity, such a regime would be regarded as pernicious.

We are taxing the poor, who are already struggling with fuel poverty, to give money to rich power companies that then pass it on to rich landowners.

We are robbing the poor to give to the rich.

It is Robin Hood in reverse.

Worse still, we are paying power companies even when power is not being produced and the turbines are standing idle.

My second point is that wind power is an unpredictable and intermittent source of power.

Without large capacity for electricity storage, for which the technology does not currently exist, it is therefore unreliable, and it requires to be backed up at all times with what is known as a spinning reserve, which has to come from conventional sources of generation.

Those of us who attended the presentation in the Parliament a few weeks ago by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers heard its concern that, because of the potential loss of conventional generating capacity in Scotland in the coming years, the spinning reserve will in future have to be imported from England or France.

It would be a rich irony indeed if the greening of the Scottish energy industry was made possible only because of France’s investment in nuclear power, but that is where we are heading.

My final point is on planning, which was raised by Neil Findlay, John Lamont and other members throughout the chamber.

The planning regime for large-scale onshore renewables is utterly inadequate and communities throughout the country feel under siege from speculative proposals from developers.

That is the situation in Perth and Kinross and many other parts of the country.

The worst aspect is that local authorities spend a great deal of time devising local plans and identifying suitable sites for development, and democratically elected local planning committees base decisions on those local plans, but when appeals are made to the Scottish Government, it completely disregards the local decision making that has taken place.

That is not democratic and it does not promote local accountability or localism.

It shows disregard, if not contempt, for local decision making.

The Scottish Government claims to speak for the people of Scotland.

The people of Scotland are here in the gallery tonight and it is time that the Scottish Government started speaking up for them.

17:58 Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP):
I, too, congratulate Neil Findlay on securing this evening’s debate.

I begin by saying to Murdo Fraser that it is pretty costly to store nuclear material over centuries.

Indeed, we just have to think of Chernobyl to realise the costs that nuclear power can have.

I do not think that green energy is so expensive in comparison with that.

In any event, green energy should be mixed, to include hydro power and deep-sea turbines, which have not been mentioned.

I also agree that we need better insulation.

I want to focus on commercial developments across the Borders, and particularly those that are already in train.

In 2010-11, there are 11 applications for 156 turbines, and they are much bigger than those at Sutra.

When the wind farm at Sutra went up many years ago, it was a bit of a tourist attraction, but there was some naivety about it because it was on its own.

Since then, there has been an extraordinary and unwanted proliferation of wind farms across the Borders.

By the way, the term “wind farm” is a misnomer.

These are industrial developments in the countryside.

The hills are gouged out to make tracks where there were none and great turbines are taken up our lanes and through our villages.

Many years ago—in 2003, I think—I got involved in the campaign at Walkerburn to prevent turbines along the southern upland way.

I think that Elaine Murray mentioned that.

They were going to be about 9 feet away.

I went up the southern upland way—I have to admit that I was in a four-wheel drive vehicle; I did not walk all the way up the hill, although I did walk a little bit.

They were to be very large turbines.

It is now eight years down the road and there have been modifications from the developers, but the battle has not yet been won.

What often happens is that a community has a degree of success, the developer modifies the plans, and the battle goes on and on, wearing down the community.

A community has to be pretty tough to deal with that.

It is not just about location or size—it is, as other members have said, about the cumulative impact.

There have been easy pickings in certain areas, and the fault has been with local authorities, which were naive in the beginning.

It took the communities to point out what was happening beneath their feet.

I have concerns about what is called community benefit, as it often seems to amount somewhat to a bribe from developers.

A community benefit may benefit one community while disbenefiting others.

I have seen communities divided, where one community is quite happy to have the turbines because they are getting a new community hall or a road built, while another community is looking at that happening and does not get anything except for having its landscape defaced.

Defacing the landscape is a terribly important issue.

I have learned the new phrase “landscape signature”, and one can see no better example of that than at Walkerburn.

When one looks at the shape of the hills beyond, one can see a real landscape signature, which was going to have a string of turbines against it.

I am not letting the Government completely off the hook, but the first responsibility for smaller developments lies with the local authority, which needs to get it right and react responsibly to the community.

John Lamont:
I am slightly confused about Christine Grahame’s position on the issue.

Is it not the Government’s fault that we are operating in an environment in which so many communities are under attack from those speculative applications? Is it not also the case that many local councils oppose the application, but the Government reporter approves it? Christine Grahame:
Before John Lamont overreaches himself in his intervention I will point out that, at a certain level of megawatts, the first 4314 1 DECEMBER 2011 4315responsibility is with the local authority.

Quite often, the problem is that developers have kept the development at that level and then built other ones on top—I think that the metaphor is “a string of pearls”.

They put in place a lot of small developments, thereby avoiding that particular process.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I must ask the member to conclude now.

Christine Grahame:
I do not want to get party political—I think that the issue deserves better.

18:02 Rhoda Grant (Highlands and Islands) (Lab):
I, too, congratulate Neil Findlay on bringing the debate to the chamber; it has on the whole been a very good debate.

Members have disagreed on some points, but I think that everyone in the chamber agrees on the need for community involvement.

I will start by touching on community ownership.

In my area of the Highlands and Islands where community land buy-outs have taken place, community ownership is possible and many communities are considering it.

However, it is not easy.

The costs involved in looking towards developing wind power—even before one gets to the planning process—are heavy, and there is a need for expertise.

That makes it very difficult for communities to take that risk on their own without any indication of whether their plan will be successful.

Communities that do not own their land do not have access to funds, and therefore do not have access to expertise.

Small developments in my region, and throughout the rest of Scotland where the communities are involved, are not able to access the grid.

If a grid upgrade is required, those communities are expected to pay for it as it is not on a commercial basis, which makes it impossible.

I suggest that we need a community renewables unit:
a body of expertise that can advise communities and fund the development costs for them.

That will allow communities to reap the benefits and perhaps return some of those funds to the public purse so that they can help other communities that want to do the same.

There has been talk of community benefit—some members are concerned about that and view it as a bribe.

I do not take that view, but I believe that the Government needs to step in to ensure that all communities receive a benefit.

That is perhaps something for which we could legislate.

Developers clearly access public funds and in return for that they must provide a public good.

We need only look at areas such as Shetland, which during the oil boom years cleverly sought to harness some of the benefits for its communities.

It will continue to reap the benefit for years into the future, enabling Shetland to build services within its communities.

We must be very careful that communities do not lose out in renewable energy generation.

The motion refers to community concerns about the process and people’s involvement in it.

That is also the case when communities are the developers.

We need a strategic plan for where renewables are to be placed, where they will work and where they can access planning permission.

That needs to be available at the outset, but it cannot be put together unless communities are involved early in the process.

I urge the Government to look at how that can be done, involving communities at the very beginning, looking at the areas where energy can be generated and then putting in place a strategic plan that will benefit both developers and communities.

It is clear that we need renewables.

Fossil fuels are finite and their cost will continue to increase.

We also have carbon emission targets to meet and we need to fight climate change.

Wave energy and tidal energy need desperately to be developed and we need to continue to invest in that development, keeping the expertise in Scotland.

We must also look at our energy consumption.

Renewables are a precious resource and they need to be developed in conjunction with the communities that we seek to serve.

18:06 Annabel Goldie (West Scotland) (Con):
I thank Mr Findlay for the motion.

As others have indicated, the level of support not just in the chamber but from the public galleries should tell the Scottish Government in no uncertain terms just how significant the issue is to communities the length and breadth of Scotland.

I support Mr Findlay’s motion.

There is a logic in the issue and a rather depressing conclusion to be drawn on the back of that logic, which became apparent four and a half years ago.

When the Scottish National Party made clear its ideological opposition to the generation of nuclear energy in Scotland—I do not agree with it, but it is perfectly entitled to do that—there flew from that policy certain inevitable conclusions.

One conclusion is that, if we exclude that component of energy provision in Scotland, we will have to have a renewed emphasis and focus on other forms of energy generation.

It is clear that one form that has emerged is the contribution that is to be made by the generation of energy from wind turbines.

The main point that I desire to make to the minister this evening is a broad one, and there have been echoes of it in the many excellent speeches this evening.

The logical conclusion of what has happened over the past four and a half years under the policy that has been driven by the Scottish Government is that we now have a strategic energy policy that undoubtedly depends on a contribution from wind turbines.

It is a policy that is pursued with vigour by ministers, the very consequence of which is to subject our planning system to what is now manifestly intolerable strain.

I am aware from my own West Scotland region, not least with communities such as Uplawmoor, that there are communities and individuals throughout Scotland who feel marginalised, ignored and irrelevant and who have absolutely no confidence in the planning system.

That is not only intolerable; it is utterly wrong.

I will adhere to brevity, Presiding Officer.

My message to the minister is simple:
the Government should review its energy policy and current planning law and procedure because the public in Scotland are ill served by both, and the current position is unsustainable and ludicrous.

It is within the control and the power of the Scottish Government to take corrective action now, and there are communities throughout Scotland—as is manifest from the number of members of the public who are here tonight—that are calling on the Scottish Government to sort out the issue and to do so soon.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call the minister to respond to the debate.

Mr Ewing, you have seven minutes.

18:09 The Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism (Fergus Ewing):
I start by thanking Mr Findlay for bringing the debate to the chamber.

There is undoubtedly huge interest in it across Scotland, as he mentioned and as is evidenced by the fact that the debate is well attended by members of the Parliament and citizens of this country.

I entirely accept the point that has been made by a great many members that the issues under debate are of concern to many people.

It is reasonable to argue that some people in this country are opposed to wind turbines in principle.

Equally, others are in favour of wind turbines.

Many people—possibly the majority—are somewhere in the middle, and think that there should be a policy that locates wind turbines in suitable areas and that due regard should be had to all the factors that have been mentioned by many members across the chamber today.

Jackie Baillie (Dumbarton) (Lab):
On that point, will the minister take an intervention?
Fergus Ewing:
I have only seven minutes.

Bear with me, as I want to try to make some progress.

The Scottish planning system is committed to delivery of increased renewable energy capacity.

It also seeks to safeguard communities and the environment.

The system is a framework that we inherited and that largely has proceeded on the same basis since before this Government came to office.

I do not make that point for any party political reasons and I will not be making any party-political points this evening.

It is a fair criticism to say that whereas the planning system and the guidance that allows it to operate were framed by our predecessors, the circumstances have changed.

It can therefore be reasonably argued that because the circumstances have changed, with far more wind turbines being approved than was perhaps initially contemplated, it is sensible and correct to look again at that planning system.

That is why, when Mr Findlay raised his concerns with me, I agreed to meet him.

I think we met on 25 September.

I also met Angela Constance, the constituency MSP, to discuss the matter.

The Scottish Government is active on this front across the ministerial portfolios and has instructed a considerable volume of work to look at the current situation and the issues that have been raised in the debate.

The main issue has perhaps been cumulative impact, which is already a key consideration in decision making.

In determinations, planning authorities and the Scottish Government will continue to draw on planning policy and advice from SNH.

In assessing cumulative effects, consideration can be given only to schemes in the vicinity that have been built, have had permission to be built or are currently the subject of undetermined applications.

I am pleased to announce that fairly soon SNH will be publishing further guidance on cumulative impact and a range of additional guidance on siting and landscape matters.

I hope that members recognise that that shows that we have been considering the issue in some detail, about which people feel very strongly.

Neil Findlay:
When I met Mr Ewing earlier in the year, I pleaded with him for a national spatial plan for wind farms.

He told me that local authorities are responsible for drawing up local spatial plans.

Many do not have one and many others are in the process of developing one.

The situation is a shambles.

I ask him please to take the temperature of the chamber today, to have regard to the numbers of people who have come along to the debate and to have a full-scale review of the whole shooting match.

Fergus Ewing:
The risk in debates of this sort is that members may overstate their points slightly.

I am afraid that Mr Findlay’s comments are not factually correct.

I will arrange to share the facts with members, and the details of which local authorities do have spatial strategies.

I can tell members, having seen the list—I have it here—that there are a great number.

It would be wholly wrong for me, in Edinburgh, to make such plans.

I would be surprised if any member disagreed that it is entirely correct for local authorities to produce plans for their areas, with the benefit of input.

Neil Findlay:
Will the minister give way?
Fergus Ewing:
No—I will not take another intervention, because I have only one and a half minutes left.

I will talk about benefits, to which many members referred.

We entirely support community renewables, on which we have undertaken a great deal of work.

The community and renewable energy scheme—CARES—exists, and Community Energy Scotland provides excellent advice to a great many communities on that.

We also have a target of achieving 500MW of local and community-owned renewable energy by 2020.

I am pleased that—as has been said—Scottish and Southern Energy announced this week that it will increase the community benefit rate in its new wind schemes to £5,000 per megawatt.

I hope that other developers will follow that example.

We are now examining in detail the consultation responses on securing community benefits and we will come back to members on that work in due course.

Jackie Baillie:
Will the minister take a brief intervention?
Fergus Ewing:
I am in the last 30 seconds of my speech.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I can allow a brief intervention.

Jackie Baillie:
Thank you, Presiding Officer—I thank the minister, too. [Laughter.] That was wonderful, Presiding Officer.

I take the minister back to guidance from SNH, which is important, on the proximity of wind farms to national parks.

What role does he envisage for the national parks and SNH in looking at wind farm applications?
The Deputy Presiding Officer:
What I said was, of course, dependent on Fergus Ewing being inclined to take the intervention.

Fergus Ewing:
By instinct, I always want to take part in a debate, which means taking interventions.

I just thought that I did not have time for an intervention.

I always find it difficult to refuse Jackie Baillie.

We will of course consider matters fairly.

I have almost run out of time and I am sorry that I have not had time to do justice in full to all the many points that were raised.

I assure members and members of the public that the debate is extremely serious and is one of the most important in Scotland.

We have huge renewables potential and we are achieving great success, not just in onshore wind but in offshore wind, tidal and wave power.

Jobs are being created throughout Scotland and opportunities are being created for young people.

I know that members of all parties support that, as does the United Kingdom Government, which has almost exactly the same policy as us on supporting onshore wind developments through ROCs.

I hope that the debate will be moderate, informed and useful.

A great deal of work is being done.

I am happy to share that with members of all parties and to work with them so that we continue to have a successful renewable energy policy for the country.

Meeting closed at 18:18.

1 December 2011

Source:  Communities Against Turbines Scotland, www.communitiesagainstturbinesscotland.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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