Scores of people marched through Inverness to confront First Minister Alex Salmond over the number of wind turbines being approved across Scotland.
Demonstrators waved placards and blew horns as they descended on Eden Court Theatre, where hundreds of SNP delegates had gathered for their annual spring conference.
And Mr Salmond was accused of snubbing the 93-year-old widow of much-loved Scottish rambler and broadcaster Tom Weir as she tried to hand over a 4,500-signature petition.
The SNP leader refused to meet Rhona Weir outside the conference, despite a series of requests.
Organisers of yesterday’s demonstration described the first minister’s refusal to accept the petition as “absolutely pathetic”, while Mrs Weir said she was “saddened” by the incident.
The protesters turned down an offer to meet Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse privately because they wanted a public event.
The demonstration was organised by the Stop Highland Windfarm Campaign (SHWC) and supported by Scotland Against Spin (SAS), which had a stall at the party conference. The petition, instigated by US-based online radio station Wind Wise Radio, attracted support from people in 44 nations, including Scotland.
It calls on Mr Salmond and Energy, Enterprise and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing to “stop the reckless siting of wind turbines in Scotland”. The campaigners now intend to present the petition to Mr Ewing.
SHWC convener Pat Wells said: “It’s just absolutely appalling that Alex Salmond has not got the courage to come and meet the people who have travelled all the way here, whose lives are being wrecked by wind turbines.
“It speaks volumes and to think he is purporting to be a leader of this country if we get independence. It is absolutely pathetic.”
One of the organisers, Linda Holt, added: “He is treating us with disdain that he could not come out and accept the petition.
“It is extremely highhanded and people are extremely angry.”
A government spokesman said ministers were prepared to talk to the protest organisers.
“We are very disappointed that Scotland Against Spin refused the offer of a meeting with Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse when their concerns could have been discussed and they could have presented their petition,” he said.
“However, we are pleased that, by having an exhibition stall at the SNP conference, they have had the opportunity to present and discuss their views with party members.”
The demonstration was held as the government published poll results showing all-party support for wind energy.
A YouGov survey found 77% of SNP supporters, 76% of Liberal Democrat supporters, 68% of Labour supporters and 55% of Conservative supporters backed “the continuing development of wind power as part of a mix of renewable and conventional forms of electricity generation”.
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