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Developers target Scottish Government as easiest route to large windfarm consents

We have information that developers now see Scotland as the most profitable area for subsidy picking in wind farm proposals, with the subsidy regime now tightened up south of the border.

Since the Scottish Government now calls in to its own decision taking, all proposals for wind farms said to deliver 50 megawatts or more, the latest wheeze is to put in proposals for farms of that minimum size in order to circumvent local planning departments, whose scrutiny is more rigorous than the Scottish Government’s and which are more locally accountable.

This speaks for the will to defeat the democratic process – with the government’s effective connivance – in the interests of subsidy chasing and in disregard of environmental and public health impacts.

We understand that there is to be a proposal coming to the Scottish Government in the near future from a developer south of the border, for a 50 megawatt installation somewhere in Argyll.

This comes as the Scottish Government is instructing local authority planning departments to ease substantially the scrutiny to which they subject wind farm planning applications.

Call for government to engage with partners on a national spatial renewables policy

A couple of weeks ago, The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) called on the tourism industry to help in the campaign to save scenic mountain areas from industrialisation by huge wind farms.

The MCofS call is for a moratorium on further development in key mountain areas, particularly around the Munros and Corbetts which are the country’s highest peaks and amongst Scotland’s greatest visitor attractions.

MCofS’s Manifesto on Onshore Wind Farms calls on the Scottish Government to engage with other organisations to develop a national spatial renewables policy. It is supported by the Munro Society, North East Mountain Trust, and Cairngorms Campaign.

The respected walking business website, Walk Highlands, reported here on the Mountaineering Council of Scotland’s initiative.

It quoted David Gibson, MCofS Chief Officer, as saying: ‘The Scottish Government is billing 2013 as the Year of Natural Scotland, whilst at the same time allowing our wild, open and beautiful mountain landscapes to be industrialised with huge numbers of wind turbines and associated bulldozed tracks.

‘This is completely at odds with the promotional stance of VisitScotland, which proudly declares on the travel trade section of its website that ‘your clients can escape into the unspoilt wilderness … taking in our majestic but accessible mountains.

‘Much of Scotland’s reputation as a fantastic place to visit is thanks to its remaining areas of dramatic scenery. Measures to protect the mountains must be put in place now if we are to continue to attract, not just those who enjoy outdoor activities but, all those in search of natural beauty and tranquillity.

‘We are calling on travel trade businesses to contact MSPs, and the Scottish Government’s tourism agency VisitScotland, to help them understand that damaging our number one unique selling point, Scotland’s highland scenery, to the extent being proposed will undermine our tourism economy.

‘We are not opposed to wind farms; however we are in favour of conserving our mountains. The Scottish Government could give real meaning to the 2013 Year of Natural Scotland by working with those who care about the environment to create a clear policy on what will be permitted and where.

Walk Highlands itself says: ‘RenewableUK figures show that Scotland has 170 onshore wind farms operational or under construction. A massive 295 more are already consented or in planning, and if all are approved, could result in over 5,000 turbines supported with miles of service roads. More applications are being made every month, many for turbines that would have dwarfed Glasgow’s recently demolished Red Road flats, once the tallest in Europe.

‘The MCofS is the representative organisation for Scotland’s mountaineers and hill walkers, with more than 11,000 members. It also acts for the 75,000 members of the British Mountaineering Council on matters related to the mountain landscape north of the border.’

VisitScotland seems to have ts hands corporately tied by government and to be unable to lobby in wind farm issues.

This is akin to the David MacBrayne Group being told by the Scottish Government – the sole shareholder in the group and its member companies – not to challenge the government award of the Northern Isles ferry contract to Serco, a major service supplier to the public sector but whose ferry operating experience is limited to a trip across the Thames at Woolwich.

The government is developing worryingly Stalinist tendencies which need to be addressed, prefereably by itself but, failing that, by the electorate.

The current Minister for Tightrope Walking – aka Enterprise, Energy and Tourism – Fergus Ewing, finds himself with profoundly conflicting responsibilities – the promotion and enabling of renewables development and the promotion of the Scottish tourism industry, so much of whose USP offer lies in its wilderness areas, its landscapes and seascapes.

Ewing is the specific Minister who gives the Scottish Government’s consents to the large scale windfarm applications it handles itself.

However, he is a comfortable member of government showing no sign of awareness of the inherent tensions in his brief.