Details of a “carve-up” — proposed by a private developer amid a dispute over access to renewable energy infrastructure in the Uists – reveal the extent to which the local community could have lost out had the request been agreed.
In correspondence received by the Free Press Stòras Uibhist, the community landlords of South Uist, suggest the direct cost to the local economy in acceding to a proposal over the Loch Carnan Wind Farm project would have exceeded £2 million.
The request was made in 2010 by Calum MacMillan, after he had secured the rights to a grid connection before Stòras Uibhist had finalised the plans for their own three-turbine scheme.
Had they agreed to the list of demands Mr MacMillan had submitted in return for him waiving part of his own grid connection, Stòras say the damage economically and reputationally would have run into tens of millions.
A breakdown of costs passed to the Free Press states that over £2 million would have been lost in various forms through quarrying royalties, acquiring new environmental data, land rental and legal fees which were all among the list of Mr MacMillan’s demands.
In addition, Stòras say that European Structural Fund money – one of the major sources of finance for the Loch Carnan scheme – would have been at risk had a condition allowing Mr MacMillan to “vet” potential contractors been agreed. This demand alone, say Stòras, could have cost them and the community £3.4 million.
Stòras rejected Mr MacMillan’s proposals and the Loch Carnan scheme was eventually opened earlier this year.
However, this week Mr MacMillan – who is standing for election to become a director of Sealladh na Beinne Mòire, the community company that owns South Uist Estate – denied any claim that he had attempted to wreck the community plans for his own personal gain.
Had they said yes to his demands, Mr MacMillan said, “It wouldn’t have cost Stòras anything”.
Mr MacMillan said he was a supporter of community ownership, but claimed that various projects being pursued by Stòras had left them with debts of £9 million. “I want to know what happens if they can’t repay the banks,” Mr MacMillan added.
This week Stòras chief executive Huw Francis said the community was in line to receive around £600,000 a year from the Loch Carnan wind farm, starting in November of this year. However, he said the final amount was dependent on the amount of electricity generated, and added that the Co-operative Bank will receive payments according to a “fixed schedule”.
The sums the bank are to receive every six months cannot be revealed because of “commercial confidentiality”, said Mr Francis.
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