Ministers are facing questions over their intervention in a planning application for a China-backed wind farm.
The SNP administration has been accused of subverting local democracy by using a rarely-used power to “call-in” plans relating to the proposed 72-turbine Inch Cape wind farm, off the Angus coast.
The application takeover by the Scottish Government was confirmed on Monday, the day Nicola Sturgeon started a week-long trade to China.
Opposition politicians said it is “outrageous” that the government has grabbed the decision from councillors before they had a chance to consider it.
The Inch Cape site is owned by Red Rock Power, a subsidiary of China’s biggest state-owned investment fund, the State Development and Investment Corporation.
A new planning application includes plans to build a substation and cable infrastructure at the former Cockenzie power plant in East Lothian.
Alexander Stewart, for the Scottish Conservatives, said the call-in is an “outrageous move from the Scottish Government and completely tramples over local democracy”.
He added: “The fact that this decision was taken while Nicola Sturgeon was in China will undoubtedly raise eyebrows, and they need to explain why this announcement was made now.”
Iain Gray, the Labour MSP, said: “Whether this sequence of events was intentional or coincidental, the SNP government should not be overstepping the boundaries of local democracy and centralising decisions ahead of democratically elected local councillors.”
Liam McArthur, the Lib Dem MSP, said: “Cutting local representatives out of the loop, before they have even come to a decision, risks giving the impression that Scottish ministers are more interested in touting for Chinese business than respecting local decision making.”
A Scottish Government spokesman: “The Cockenzie Power Station site is included in the National Planning Framework 3 and this application may raise matters of national importance.
“Calling it in will allow further consideration of the case by ministers before they issue a decision on whether or not planning consent should be granted.”
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