A local petition for a controversial new wind farm in Sutherland included scores of signatures from people living hundreds of miles away.
Opponents of the controversial Creag Riabhach wind farm development say that the local petition was signed by residents as far away as Dunfermline and Doncaster who had no obvious connection with the area.
Creag Riabhach was approved in October despite more than 200 objections being lodged, and many are now demanding that the Scottish Government performs a U-turn on its decision to approve construction.
The 22-turbine wind farm is set to be constructed on the Altnaharra estate owned by 82-year-old Jim Gray, a long-time supporter of the SNP and founder of transport group Gray & Adams, which has its headquarters in Fraserburgh, as well as branches in Dunfermline and Doncaster. Analysis of the Creag Riabhach petition reveals that more than 250 supporters lived in these three towns, which are located between 160 and 460 miles away from the proposed wind farm site.
The authenticity of signatures originating from Altnaharra has also been called into question, as the number of signatories appears to exceed the number of adult residents who live there.
An unusually large number of respondents did not disclose their address details.
It had been suggested during the wind farm’s consultation period that significant local support of the development was of paramount importance.
Each of Creag Riabhach’s 22 turbines is expected to generate around £40,000 in revenue every year. Those who own land where wind farms are situated can expect to receive 5-6% of their annual turnover.
Critics say that the petition in support of the development may have been rigged in a desperate attempt to ensure it went ahead.
The Creag Riabhach scheme in Altnaharra lies within the Wild Land Areas map which was unveiled by ministers two years ago to protect the natural heritage of Scotland. The government’s decision six weeks ago to push ahead with the development sparked outrage among conservation groups, with many concerned that the project will act as a “Trojan Horse”, encouraging the construction of more wind farms on protected land elsewhere.
Director of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm Tim Philpot, who is also an employee of Gray & Adams, said he was unable to explain why there had been such a swell of support from towns associated with the company.