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Huff and puff of wind farm critics falls on deaf ears

It’s not quite a case of biting the hand that feeds; after all Alex Salmond and his ministers played the Donald Trump application for that golf course in Aberdeenshire strictly by the book, didn’t they?

Still, the fuss that the American businessman is making over an offshore wind farm that, presumably on a clear day, could be seen from his fairways and hotel must be a bit of a surprise, to say the least, for our SNP masters.

He’s made clear his opposition before now. But in a letter to Struan Stevenson, the Tory member of the European Parliament, who has a distinctly unfavourable view about wind farms, Mr Trump – who is not known for understatement – describes the turbines in this particular development as “hideous and noisy structures”.

Furthermore, he says that this wind farm, one and a half miles offshore, would “visually destroy” the coastline in north-east Scotland and damage the quality of life for local residents.

However, in his most damaging statement, Mr Trump continues: “This ugly and destructive facility and others like it must be moved or Scotland will soon witness the total devastation of its tourism industry and become the laughing stock of the world.”

Not to put it mildly, this is a declaration of war on his very doorstep, the golf course development being in the First Minister’s own constituency. Wind power, whether of the on or offshore variety, is one of the mainstays of Alex Salmond’s energy policy, which has set this country the target of generating 100 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

But this aim is running into more and more opposition as each wind turbine project either gets the go-ahead or reaches the planning application stage. Objectors staged a protest at the SNP conference in Inverness last October and the following month a national conference of people opposed to wind farms was held in Ayr.

Among major onshore developments are a 31-turbine project on the edge of the Cairngorm National Park and another for 48 turbines in the Lammermuirs. There are also around 15 large offshore projects planned for Scotland’s coastline.

A debate in the Scottish Parliament in December saw almost every speaker – from all parties – raise serious questions about the speed at which such developments are being approved and calling for some kind of national strategy.

Sad to say, Mr Salmond’s form of national strategy seems to be to have as many wind farms as there are applications for them.

There is little doubt that Mr Trump’s complaint is special pleading and, not being a golfer, I find it difficult to imagine how turbines, no matter how large, all that way offshore could possibly ruin your day or cause a slice or shank.

And the businessman was taken to task by Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat leader, who described his attack as “hysterical” and said that renewables played an important part in Scotland’s energy future.

However, a hell-for-leather pursuit of a policy that many believe is spoiling Scotland’s landscape for what can only be described as debatable benefits and at huge cost, does surely require more sober reflection than the issue is currently getting.

As Mr Rennie says, Donald Trump’s complaints deserve no better treatment than any other citizen’s.

The question that must be asked today, however, is whether Mr Salmond is listening to any of the objectors, anywhere.