A Scottish Government minister dismissed claims a windfarm company is “buying silence”.
Derek Mackay, the former planning minister, ruled there is nothing wrong with shared community benefits.
But he has come under fire from pressure group Turbine Watch 312 which maintains the process is “unethical”.
The row blew up after Banks Renewables sent out letters, offering cash in exchange for support, to people who live close to their planned Knockendurrick development near Twynholm.
Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Alex Fergusson took up the cudgels and wrote to Mr Mackay asking if the Scottish Government agreed that was unethical.
The MSP said “serious questions” had been raised.
But in a reply, Mr Mackay said Banks had agreed to change tack but added there was nothing wrong with negotiations.
His staff spoke to Banks’ environment and community director Mark Dowdall.
Mr Mackay said: “Mr Dowdall freely admits that the approach did not fit with company values. Steps have been taken to ensure it is not repeated.”
He added: “As the company website will show it remains right and proper to conduct negotiations and meet locally with landowners and tenants in order to describe the shared community benefits that may flow from the windfarm development.
“Agreements do not interfere with statutory rights and certainly do not set out to buy silence.”
Turbine Watch 312 spokesman Keith Mycock said: “It is clear that there is unethical behaviour going on in the wind industry and this company has gained a reputation for mastering the dark art of influencing communities and silencing detractors.
“We find it extremely disappointing that Derek Mackay has avoided condemning the actions of Banks Renewables in unquestioned ‘buying silence’ of residents in a most unsavoury way.”
However, Banks development director Colin Anderson insisted: “Our policy is to ensure that residents living closest to our planned developments are fully informed of the proposals and given every opportunity to get involved in our designs at an early stage.
“We believe it is important that local communities that host our developments should benefit from our presence in their area.
“We believe in the past there may have been confusion over this and we have rewritten our own guidelines relating to agreements reached with those living closest to our developments.”
Mr Fergusson was unhappy with the reply and vowed: “I will continue to raise questions about it.”
Banks’ application with council planners is for a seven turbine farm at Knockendurrick.
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