A Tory MP in the Scottish Parliament has accused the Scottish Energy Minister in the minority SNP-led Scot-Govt of ignoring local communities and councils in upholding planning appeals by wind energy developers.
Two-thirds of wind farm developments, which are rejected by local councils, have subsequently been pushed through by Scottish ministers on appeal.
A total of 17 applications were refused by local authorities over the past year, but 11 of these decisions were then overturned by ministers.
Taking in total wind farm appeals, which includes those against specific conditions or where there was a failure to reach a decision locally, the majority are approved by ministers. Just ten were rejected, while 13 were given the green light.
Alexander Stewart, Tory MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife – who obtained the figures through parliamentary answers – said: “The minister’s answer to my question shows the Scottish Government’s clear contempt for local democracy.
“Two-thirds of wind farm applications rejected by local authorities who clearly know and respect their own rural environments, have been overturned by the SNP so far this year.
“The SNP is displaying its obsessiveness with wind energy at the expense of other sources. Communities across Scotland have complained about too many turbines spoiling local scenery.
“Indeed some councils have even asked for moratoriums to be put in place to cope with the influx of planning applications, yet despite claiming to respect local democracy, the SNP has repeatedly overruled decisions made by councillors and planners – displaying clear contempt for local democracy.”
In the most controversial case in the past year Scot-Govt. ministers approved the 22-turbine Creag Riabhach wind farm on the Altnaharra Estate, near Lairg, Inverness-shire, despite this being located on a new map of Scotland’s Wild Lands which were expected to escape developments.
David Gibson, Chief Executive, Mountaineering Scotland, said: “Anyone concerned about democracy in Scotland should be concerned that decisions made by locally-elected representatives about wind farm projects are being regularly overturned on appeal.
“One might take the view that the continuing proliferation of wind farms, supported by Scottish Government policy and big business, means that the appeals process could be skewed in favour of approval.”
A poll released by the John Muir Trust earlier this month found 80 per cent of Scots agree that Wild Land Areas should be protected from large-scale infrastructure such as industrial-scale wind farms. It also found that 55 per cent of people are less likely to visit scenic areas that contain massive wind farms.
Helen McDade, head of policy at the trust, said: “When considering such applications in the future, we would hope the planning minister will recognise not only local concerns, but also the strong desire nationally to keep our wild places free from intrusive, insensitive industrial-scale development.”