The SNP was hit by “lobbying” claims last night after it emerged a developer with two wind farms awaiting ministerial approval sponsored Nicola Sturgeon’s inaugural speech as First Minister.
Community Windpower Ltd was the sole sponsor of the SNP’s St Andrew’s Day dinner in Glasgow last year, which also saw her predecessor Alex Salmond deliver his farewell address.
The company also features in a new Scottish Government advertising campaign, with its Aikengall Wind Farm appearing on giant billboards at airports.
Aikengall IIa – a second extension of the existing wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills – is currently being considered by SNP Ministers.
Scottish Borders Council and local residents are objecting to the 18 additional turbines, while the Ministry of Defence has warned it will cause “unacceptable interference” to air defence radar.
A second Community Windpower project – involving 24 turbines at Girthgate in Berwickshire – is also awaiting a decision from the Scottish Government.
Once again, Scottish Borders Council, local residents and the MoD are objecting to the Girthgate project.
Aikengall Community Wind Farm features in a new “welcome campaign at Scotland’s airports”, while Community Windpower’s Managing Director Rod Wood is quoted on the Scottish Government website.
Mark Rowley, chairman of Lammermuir Community Council, has now reported the campaign to the Advertising Standards Authority. He said the original text to accompany the advert – which has since been changed – implied that the wind farm was community owned.
The Scottish Government yesterday claimed that Aikengall was chosen for the campaign because the height of the turbines “suited the composition of the photograph”.
However, the 410 foot turbines appear to be of a very similar height to hundreds of others across Scotland.
Mr Rowley also questioned the sponsorship of last year’s high-profile SNP event. He said: “As the SNP clearly have such an interest in the success of Community Windpower I wonder who will they find to take the final decision – surely it can’t be any Minister who has enjoyed their hospitality? That would just look wrong.”
A spokeswoman for anti-wind group Scotland Against Spin also raised concerns over “undue influence and lobbying”.
She said: “Why has Community Windpower spent huge sums of money courting the SNP? There can only be one reason: the mega-profits, guaranteed for 25 years, paid for by consumer subsidy, which wind farms receive.
“The financial relationship between the Community Windpower and the SNP highlights the potential for abuse in a planning system in which government ministers hand out consents like winning lottery tickets.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The location for the ‘Wind into Watts’ creative was chosen by the advertising agency because the height of the wind turbines suited the composition of the photograph. The use of this image does not prejudice any current or future consideration of extensions of the windfarm.”
An SNP spokesman added: “Unlike other parties, the SNP never has and never will offer private meetings with ministers, the party leadership or senior personnel in exchange for sponsorship.
“Many organisations sponsor party events, including at our conference, in an open and transparent way – this event was attended by over 500 people. The SNP has longstanding policy in support of renewable energy, reflecting the democratic structures of the party – Scottish Government activity reflects this, not sponsorship.”
Community Windpower did not respond to our request for a comment.
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