A major wildlife charity has been accused of hypocrisy and double standards after revealing plans to erect a wind turbine at one of Scotland’s largest nature reserves.
RSPB Scotland has submitted plans to Aberdeenshire Council to install a 62ft high “domestic” turbine at its Loch of Strathbeg reserve, near Crimond, in Buchan.
The reserve is home to almost 300 species of birds during the year and in winter tens of thousands of geese, including up to a quarter of the world’s population of pink-footed geese, visit the loch.
RSPB Scotland has been one of the leading objectors to a series of major wind-farm developments in Scotland in recent years. And the charity’s decision to erect a turbine at the reserve has been condemned by the protest group Communities Against Turbines Scotland.
Spokeswoman Kim Terry said: “This application smacks of hypocrisy and double standards. They are supposed to be a charity whose remit is the protection of birds and yet they are erecting something which they know from data all over the world will harm and kill birds in great numbers.
“They are almost taking money under false pretences. They are taking money from members of the public and not fulfilling their remit. I think a lot of their members will be aggrieved about this.”
Ms Terry added: “While the RSPB does lot of good work in other ways – and there is no denying this – I think a lot of people think they have got it completely wrong here.
“The smaller the turbine the faster the blades go round. The RSPB should not be condoning developments that are going to be a danger to something they should be protecting.”
Aedan Smith, RSPB Scotland’s head of planning, defended the development.
He said: “We do object on occasion to wind-farm developments. But if you look across the whole sweep of different development proposals we actually end up objecting to only ten per cent of those.”
He continued: “The way we have treated this turbine is consistent with our approach to other developments across the UK. We look at them on a case-by-case basis and assess what the likely conservation impact is going to be.
“If there is likely to be a problem then we would object to it and wouldn’t be proposing it in the first place on our reserve.
“But if it is not going to be a problem then we are supportive of wind turbines because of the need to reduce the impact on birds and other wildlife of the effects of climate change.”
An ornithology report, submitted by RSPB Scotland in support of the application, admitted that small numbers of pink-footed geese and whooper swans will be at risk of collision if the development is approved.
The report states: “It is possible to conclude that the turbine development is unlikely to have a significant impact on the qualifying species of Loch of Strathbeg SPA (special protection area).”
Mr Smith said the report assessed the risk to pink-footed geese as one death every five years and one death every 2.5 years for whooper swans. These deaths rates, he stressed, would have no impact on the conservation status of either species.
He added: “The purpose of the turbine is to try and improve the environmental performance of our estate.
“The RSPB as an organisation is becoming increasingly concerned about the effect of climate change on wildlife across the UK and across the world and we are doing what we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
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