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Conservationists win Scottish wind farm legal challenge

Conservationists have won a legal challenge in Scotland’s highest court against four major offshore wind farm projects.

RSPB Scotland opposed the developments in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay over concerns for wildlife.

Scottish ministers approved the Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo projects in 2014.

The projects could provide power for 1.4 million homes.

RSPB Scotland lawyers argued that the Scottish ministers were in breach of the requirements placed upon them by the law when they made their original decisions.

The lawyers argued that the ministers didn’t give proper consideration to the area being a haven for rare wildlife.

Judge Lord Stewart ruled in favour of RSPB Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

He ordered that the Scottish ministers will have to reconsider the decisions on whether to grant planning permissions for the developments.

‘Last resort decision’

Their new decision will have to address the legal points brought out in court by the RSPB Scotland team.

In a statement, RSPB Scotland said that the legal challenge was a “last resort decision” which it had made “with great reluctance.”

It said: “Unfortunately, consents were granted when thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from iconic internationally-protected wildlife sites like the Bass Rock and the Isle of May were predicted to be killed every year.

“The government’s statutory nature conservation advisors, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, had also raised significant concerns about the wind farms.

“In these circumstances, RSPB Scotland could not just stand by and let such devastating impacts on Scotland’s wildlife happen without making a stand.”

Lloyd Austin, the society’s head of conservation policy, said: “RSPB Scotland is now keen to work with all parties to ensure we focus efforts on delivering much-needed renewable energy in a way that does not threaten Scotland’s internationally-important wildlife.”

‘Strongly committed’

Minister for business, innovation and energy Paul Wheelhouse said: “Scottish ministers note Lord Stewart’s judgement and will now carefully consider it and its implications.

“The Scottish government remains strongly committed to the development of offshore wind energy, as this key low-carbon technology offers a huge economic opportunity for Scotland, but, crucially, through helping to decarbonise our electricity supply, it also has a key role to play in our fight against the threat posed by climate change to both our society and our natural environment.

“Clearly, protecting Scotland’s marine environment is of paramount importance: it is at the heart of the Scottish government’s approach to offshore renewable energy applications, and we are keen to work constructively with both the RSPB and renewable energy developers to ensure the sector has a bright future in Scotland.”