SNP minsters are planning to undermine community opposition to wind farms by having teachers tell schoolchildren that turbines benefit the environment, according to official guidance just published.
Updated advice issued by the Scottish Government stated that councils should include green energy in the school curriculum or after-school activities “to provide a foundation for balanced decision-making in later life”.
It also recommended that renewable power companies embark on public relations campaigns so that the intermittent power and visual impact of turbines are not “portrayed as show-stoppers or roadblocks”.
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister, said the guidance would ensure wind farm planning applications “go more smoothly for everyone involved”.
But opposition parties last night accused the SNP of infecting classrooms with pro-wind farm propaganda in order that they achieve their green energy targets.
Scottish ministers want to generate the equivalent of all the country’s electricity needs from renewable sources by the end of the decade but planning chiefs have warned this could mean the countryside being turned into a “wind farm landscape”.
Mary Scanlon, Scottish Tory energy spokesman, said: “Children are very impressionable and filling their lessons with political propaganda on wind farms is not acceptable.
“Guidance may be useful but the fact is the SNP wants to continue developing wind farms across Scotland, often in the face of strong local opposition.”
The document is the result of the GP Wind Project, a Scottish Government-led EU project that examined the obstacles to more wind turbines being built.
They were developed in conjunction with “interested parties” including Western Isles Council and the power companies SSE and Scottish Power Renewables.
It was published by SNP ministers after communities, council planning authorities and developers complained the current system is not fit for purpose.
Green energy companies have warned they are unlikely to meet SNP energy targets unless planners speed up the processing of applications, while local authorities has said they are facing a deluge of opportunistic proposals on inappropriate sites.
Although the new guidance states developers should provide “early planning and mapping” details, many of the recommendations deal with how they can overcome “entrenched perceptions” about wind farms.
The latter section recommends that green energy firms do not ignore concerns such as wind farms’ environmental impact but instead portray them as manageable.
In addition, the companies are told to start websites and visitor centres for specific projects as seeing turbines up close can change people’s minds.
However, the most radical plan is “involving energy and environmental issues in school curricula or extra-curricular activities”.
Among the other proposals to overcome public opposition is “encouraging clusters of wind farms” with spaces in between so the landscape is not dominated by turbines.
Mr Ewing said: “The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places and this guidance will help to ensure that, while also making sure there are fewer unsuitable applications and that communities are properly consulted and informed.”
He also announced the formation of an “onshore wind task force” that will examine other ways to “improve” the way wind farm applications are dealt with.
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