Nicola Sturgeon was accused of “trampling over local democracy” yesterday after intervening in a controversial planning application backed by the Chinese government.
The Scottish Government “called in” plans related to the Inch Cape Offshore (ICO) wind farm on Monday, the same day the First Minister began a trade visit to China.
It will now be decided by SNP ministers instead of local councillors in East Lothian.
But opposition parties branded the intervention “a disgrace” as ICO are owned by Red Rock Power, a subsidiary of China’s largest state-owned investment fund, the State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC).
Sturgeon met the project’s backers on Tuesday in China, although the Government insist the development wasn’t discussed. The SNP leader also opened Red Rock’s Edinburgh office in 2016.
Inch Cape want to build the substation on the former Cockenzie power station site to bring offshore energy from a planned wind farm into the National Grid. The substation will be controlled remotely and create no local jobs.
Labour’s East Lothian MSP Iain Gray last night said: “This decision is a disgrace. I have spent years arguing that local planning decisions must be taken in East Lothian, not by Scottish Government ministers.
“We now know that Nicola Sturgeon met the SDIC the same week her planning minister removed a planning application by their subsidiary Red Rock from East Lothian Council, so the Government could decide itself.
“He added that the SNP Government should not be overstepping the boundaries of local democracy and centralising decisions ahead of democratically elected local councillors.
Tory local government spokesman Alexander Stewart said: “This is an outrageous move from the Scottish Government and completely tramples over local democracy. Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said local representatives should not be cut out of the loop.
The Scottish Government said the application may raise matters of “national importance” and calling it in would allow further consideration of the case by ministers.
Ian Johnson, ICO project manager, said: “This is not uncommon for a project with such national economic and environmental importance.”
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