The Scottish Government has been accused of a ‘scandalous misuse of power’ – after giving the green light to hundreds of wind farms that had been rejected by residents and councils.
In more than 200 cases, local authority planners refused permission for the building of a wind farm, only to be overruled by Ministers.
Since the SNP came to power in 2007, nearly half of the 464 appeals submitted by rejected developers were later given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government.
Meanwhile, analysis suggests that, as Ministers strive to reach renewable energy targets, the number of wind farms in Scotland may have to double.
Protesters say the willingness to overturn council decisions is a ‘scandalous, anti-democratic misuse of power’ and are calling for new powers – which exist in England – for communities to be able to veto new developments.
The Government is determined to make Scotland a world leader in renewable energy. Former First
Minister Alex Salmond declared in 2011 that the country would become ‘the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy’, and pledged that offshore wind farms and tidal power would play their part.
But a decade on, it is onshore wind turbines that are producing more than 70 per cent of Scotland’s total.
Ministers have forced through planning applications even when there has been concerns about the impact on the landscape, communities and other sectors, such as tourism. Government figures published last month show that 205 planning refusals have been overturned since 2007-08.
Graham Lang, of campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said: ‘It is a scandalous, anti-democratic misuse of power. We need to replicate the respect given to communities in England.’
Scottish Tory economy spokesman Maurice Golden said: ‘These figures reveal an SNP Government that doesn’t care about local decision-making and doesn’t care about rural Scotland. In many of these cases, wind farms will have been rejected because they were inappropriate for the environment.’
However, Morag Watson, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, which represents green energy firms, said: ‘Onshore wind, the cheapest form of new power generation, plays a vital role in Scotland’s energy system.
‘We have been working hard to make the planning system more participatory, with communities involved at the earliest stages.’
The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has said overall onshore wind capacity must rise to 35 gigawatts (GW) by 2035.
More than half of the British capacity is in Scotland but that is only 8.4GW, meaning it will have to increase dramatically to hit climate change targets.
Last night, the Scottish Government said: ‘Decisions on appeals are made by independent reporters from the planning and environmental appeals division based on the planning merits of the case – taking full account of all the evidence, including representations from the local community. Ministers are committed to seeing the right developments in the right place.’
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