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SNP approves third of appeals for wind farms

A third of wind farm applications that are originally knocked back by local authorities are later approved by the SNP government.

A survey of onshore wind farm applications found that SNP ministers have overruled council decisions on 20 occasions since January.

Of the 63 appeals referred to the government after an application was refused by a council, in 43 cases the original 
decision was upheld. For 20 applications the decision was overturned and the application was waved through.

The results of the survey, carried out by the Scottish Conservatives, alarmed anti-wind farm campaigners, who claim the controversial developments spoil the countryside.

Protester Susan Crosswaithe said: “This is alarming to everyone who is fighting against these turbines, because it appears that there is no real ­democracy.

“It doesn’t matter what happens, because once they reach the Scottish Government they just get the go-ahead. The figure doesn’t surprise me at all and I suspect things are getting worse rather than better because of the pressures that councils are under.”

Applications passed on appeal included five in Dumfries and Galloway, three in East Lothian, two in Aberdeenshire, Fife, Moray and near Falkirk, and one each in the Western Isles, East Renfrewshire, Highland and Inverclyde.

The government hopes wind farms will help it to meet ambitious targets to produce all of the country’s electricity requirements from renewable energy sources by 2020.

There are 152 onshore wind farms in Scotland and 1,800 turbines are now operational. Plans for 1,800 more turbines have been lodged with local authorities – many close to or within areas of outstanding natural beauty.

The policy has already brought First Minister Alex Salmond into conflict with US tycoon Donald Trump, who has mounted a high-profile and well-funded campaign against wind farms in the Scottish countryside.

Trump is objecting to plans to build offshore turbines near his new golf resort in Aberdeenshire but is also backing campaigners against inappropriate onshore sites.

The Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said: “When local authorities turn down applications for wind farms or wind turbines, it is for good reason. Either planning officials will have concerns over their visual effect or communities fear the impact on their doorstep.

“Often it is a combination of both, but on a third of occasions this year that hasn’t stopped the Scottish Government pushing them through anyway. The SNP’s obsession with wind power cannot be 
allowed to damage hillsides and ridges across Scotland.

“We have always said appropriately sited wind farms can play a role in a mixed energy source environment. Instead, Alex Salmond is pouring all his eggs into the wind energy basket – a source that has been found to be unreliable and 
intermittent, not to mention hugely unpopular with the general public.”

She added: “Councils are best placed to know what is best for their areas, and it’s time the Scottish Government started respecting their ­decisions.”

The results of the survey follows last month’s revelation that SNP ministers have waved through more than four out of five of the largest planning applications for wind farms.

The only turbine developments routinely referred to the Scottish Government, without going through council planning departments first, are those of more than 50 megawatts. Those larger developments require ministerial consent, as set out in section 36 of the Electricity Act.

In November, it emerged that since the Nationalists took power five years ago, 29 out of the 35 major developments referred to them under section 36 have been approved – the equivalent of 83 per cent.

Earlier this month, energy minister Fergus Ewing said £1 billion had been invested in renewable energy in Scotland this year as he claimed that the country was on course to hit its ambitious green energy target of 50 per cent of its 
energy needs met from renewable sources by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2020.

The Scottish Government defended its record on wind farm planning decisions.

A spokeswoman said: “Scotland has open, inclusive and transparent planning processes which give the right protection to our magnificent landscapes, and which take the views of local communities into account.

“Developers have a right of appeal on the decisions of planning authorities to local review bodies or to Scottish ministers.

“In two-thirds of wind turbine cases appealed to Scottish ministers, reporters have upheld the view of the local authority.”