Green energy companies are resorting to methods that are “little short of bribery” to buy up swathes of Scotland’s countryside for new wind farms, the group representing walkers warned have MSPs.
Ramblers Scotland said the power firms are embroiled in a desperate race akin to the Klondike gold rush to develop as many sites as possible so they can take advantage of generous taxpayer subsidies.
But this has involved offering significant financial inducements to win the backing of local communities and safeguards in the planning system to protect sensitive areas being ignored, they argued.
A community leader also accused SNP ministers of failing to understand the concerns of rural communities and warned residents have been left powerless to stop a green energy policy driven by “targets and subsidies”.
Their evidence to Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee came as campaign group Communities Against Turbines Scotland announced plans for a protest march in Edinburgh with Donald Trump next week.
The US tycoon is due to give evidence to the same inquiry in which he will protest plans to build a wind farm off the coast of his Aberdeenshire golf resort and explain why he thinks Alex Salmond’s drive for green energy is destroying Scotland.
In a written submission before giving evidence, Ramblers Scotland called for a cut in the subsidy for onshore developments to slow the spread.
“Planning authorities, public agencies, local communities and interest groups are overwhelmed by the number of planning applications for wind farm development that are coming forward,” it said.
“There is a ‘Klondike’ atmosphere created almost entirely by a subsidy regime that encourages any would-be developer to try their hand at getting planning approval for massive wind turbines.”
Mr Salmond’s target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade is overriding objections that councils or communities voice, the submission said.
The group, which has 6,500 Scottish members, said the levels of financial inducement being offered to local communities to get permission for wind farms on their land is “little short of bribery” and putting the integrity of the planning system at risk.
However, it said all households are paying for this largesse through increased electricity bills.
“The situation can be summed up simply as ‘never in the history of public subsidy has so much been given to so few for so little public benefit’,” the group concluded.
Gordon Ball, the chair of a community council in Cameron, Fife criticised Scottish ministers for their lack of understanding, adding: “Targets and subsidies drive the market and these are massive forces.
“By relying on the market and incentivising those who want to erect wind turbines to force the pace, it has left local communities feeling disenfranchise and disconnected from the processes that shape their lives.”
A spokesman for Scottish Renewables, which represents green power companies, said its members “only receive financial support when they begin to generate clean electricity, not for building wind farms.”
“Community benefit is entirely voluntary gesture and not a material consideration for the local planning authority when making a decision on a wind farm,” he added.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding