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Nicola Sturgeon’s plot to keep wind farms as SNP oppose Tory plans

Moves to scrap generous taxpayer funding for onshore wind farms face a legal challenge from the Scottish government.

It has embraced green energy and Scottish ministers have stated their strong opposition to the measure which Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said yesterday would come into force next April.

New planning rules have also been introduced, coming into effect this week, giving residents the power to veto new applications to build wind turbines in their local area.

Councils will have the final say over whether new wind farms are built – in consultation with residents. And if there is fierce local opposition, the plans will have to be amended or shelved.

The wind industry has sounded the alarm over cuts to subsidies, which are handed to the operators of wind farms and funded through levies on household energy bills.

Miss Rudd said: ‘We want to help technologies stand on their own two feet, not encourage a reliance of public subsidies.

‘So we are driving forward our commitment to end new onshore wind subsidies and give local communities the final say over any new wind farms.’

There are more than 5,000 onshore wind farms in Britain, of which more than half are in Scotland. Another 3,500 have planning permission or are already under construction.

Nicola Sturgeon, who was asked about the issue at First Minister’s Questions yesterday said: ‘This decision is utterly wrong-headed and wrong and we will do everything in our power…to change it.’

Scotland’s energy minister Fergus Ewing said the decision was ‘deeply regrettable’ and his government had ‘made representations’ to the UK government through letters and phone calls.

‘It will have a disproportionate impact on Scotland as around 70pc of onshore wind projects in the UK planning system are here’, he said.

‘The Scottish Government remains ambitious for the renewable energy industry and aims to maximise the vital contribution it makes towards tackling climate change.

‘Therefore we have warned the UK Government that the decision, which appears irrational, may well be the subject of a Judicial Review.’

Britain must meet a legally-binding target from the European Union to generate 15 per cent of energy from low-carbon sources such as wind, solar and nuclear power, by 2020.

Miss Rudd has said there are already enough turbines in the pipeline to meet this target. The scheme which subsidies them – called the Renewables Obligation – will be axed for new onshore wind.

Onshore wind farms which are already up-and-running or have started being built, will still be subsidised under the old arrangements.

But almost 3,000 more turbines awaiting planning permission – most of which are in Scotland – will be in jeopardy unless they are approved and start generating energy by the end of next March.

The Scottish government and green energy firms claim household fuel bills will actually go up because of more investment in turbines offshore, which are far more expensive and attract higher subsidies.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change denied the move would push up bills, and said if subsidies had been allowed to continue there would be more wind farms than Britain could afford.

Renewable UK, representing the wind industry said: ‘This Government is quite prepared to pull the rug from under the feet of investors even when this country desperately needs to clean up the way we generate electricity at the lowest possible cost – which is onshore wind.’

Experts last night said that there would be a flurry of projects trying to get going so they could qualify for subsidies before the funding is cut off.