Campaigners have accused the Scottish government of ignoring local decisions against wind farms, warning that the “open door” policy is wrecking the landscape.
Newly-obtained data reveals that in the last five years ministers overruled local authority decisions on 19 out of 24 controversial developments.
The research by campaign group Save Our Hills shows that developers on each occasion have gone over their heads to the Scottish Government for permission.
Those 19 overturned decisions means the success rate of appeals for onshore wind farms is almost eight in ten. This compares to the wider planning permission appeal rate of one in three.
The information, obtained by Save Our Hills through Freedom of Information, comes as one major developer conceded wind farm companies see Scotland as a “soft touch” compared to England.
Praising Scotland’s “open door policy”, Frank Elsworth, Vattenfall’s UK development director, said: “England has primarily pushed everything offshore. It has introduced policy which is quite a barrier to development.”
Iain Milligan, spokesman for Save Our Hills, said: “It’s astounding that the Scottish Government has overturned this many applications for wind farms in the last few years.
“The message it sends to wind farm developers is not to worry when local people say no, community councils say no, and the local authority says no.
“Just pass it up the chain to ministers in Edinburgh and you’ll almost certainly get approval.
“This attitude from the Scottish Government encourages developers from across Europe who now see Scotland as a soft touch.
“That means our landscape is far more likely to be wrecked by huge windfarm developments than anywhere else in the UK and, what is more, largely by foreign-owned developers who care not a jot for Scotland’s landscape.
“Vattenfall, one such developer, has basically admitted that it targets Scotland because it knows it’s easier to get through the planning system here.
“Everyone accepts the need for sustainable, renewable energy for the sake of supply and the environment.
“But Scotland is at saturation point, and we need a government that is more willing to look at other ways of producing energy that doesn’t cause irreparable harm to our unique and world-famous landscape.”
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