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Scottish Gov asked to review windfarm after “hijacking” claims

The Scottish Government is being urged to review its blessing for the first windfarm on designated Highland wild land amid claims the debate was “hijacked” by people living hundreds of miles away.
There is strong community support for the 22-turbine Creag Riabhach scheme at Altnaharra in Sutherland.

But it has emerged scores of people in geographical clusters in Aberdeenshire, Fife and even South Yorkshire registered backing for the project. A chunk of the support was registered over a 48-hour period in mid-February.

Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser wants the planning application reassessed.

“The ministers who agreed to these plans now have some very serious explaining to do about whether due process has been followed,” he said.

The list of long distance support for the windfarm features on submissions to the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit.

Community councils in Altnaharra, Kinlochbervie, Bettyhill and Durness all registered backing. But so did an array of companies from Aberdeenshire, Ross-shire and Oxfordshire.

The Creag Riabhach project, featuring turbines up to 410ft tall, was approved for a site between Lairg and Altnaharra.

The estate owner could not be contacted yesterday.

Tim Philpot, director of Creag Riabhach Wind Farm, said: “Our project is firmly rooted in the local community as it’s being developed in partnership with the Altnaharra Estate.

“It’ll provide important job opportunities for residents and companies throughout the region as well as investment through a community benefit fund and a lasting legacy benefit.”

Scottish Government minister Paul Wheelhouse gave his blessing despite strong opposition from wild land charity the John Muir Trust which fears a “Trojan horse” effect with the scheme being replicated elsewhere.

Its head of policy Helen McDade said: “The Scottish planning system needs to change to allow genuine local participation while protecting our natural heritage.”

A government spokesman said yesterday the windfarm would help tackle climate change, produce £9million of benefits for the local community and support local economic development.