RSPB escalates battle to protect birds against Scot-Govt approval for £2bn offshore wind-power factory to British Supreme Court

Proposed location of one of 'The Quartet' offshore wind-power factories.
Proposed location of one of ‘The Quartet’ offshore wind-power factories.

The RSPB Scotland has applied directly to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against the recent decision by the Inner House of the Court of Session on its Firth of Forth offshore wind farm judicial review.

This is the latest round in the long-running legal battle launched by the RSPB over the consenting and potential bird impacts of the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe, 600MW Inch Cape and 1,050MW Seagreen projects – the offshore wind-power factory (known as ‘The Quartet’) planned for construction off the eastern Scotland coast.

If this latest RSPB Scotland appeal is successful, it will throw a major spanner in both the commercial plans of these (mostly) overseas developers, as well as the Scot-Govt’s ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by press ahead with its almost entirely wind-power- based Scottish Energy Strategy.

The (superior) Inner House allowed the appeal of Scottish Ministers’, overturning the Outer House’s ruling in favour of the RSPB Scotland and reinstating the 2014 consents for four large offshore wind projects in the Firths of Forth and Tay.

Anne McCall, Director, RSPB Scotland, said: “We have not taken this decision lightly.

“However our concerns with the manner in which Scottish Ministers’ took their decisions in 2014 remain undiminished. Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House judgement extend beyond simply the impacts of these developments on important seabird populations.

“Therefore due to the implications of this latest decision for many aspects of our work we felt we had no choice but to apply to the Supreme Court.

“We are hopeful that our application is successful and that we are granted leave to appeal so these important issues of public interest can be considered in detail by the Supreme Court.”

A Supreme Court hearing could take up to 12 months to schedule. And even if unsuccessful in London, the RSPB could still have the possibility of a further appeal to the European Court.

RSPB census of kittiwakes show that the biggest colonies are located off Scotland
RSPB census of kittiwakes show that the biggest colonies (in dark colour) are located off Scotland – where the proposed offshore wind-power factories are due to be built

The RSPB has long recognised the need to tackle climate change and the role that renewable energy has in reducing emissions.

McCall added: “That is why RSPB Scotland has worked with the Firth of Forth offshore wind developers and Scottish Ministers for almost 10 years to try and help offshore wind progress in a manner that minimises impacts on seabird colonies. 

“However, despite our efforts, Scottish Ministers issued consents for all four projects in 2014, even though predicted impacts could result in major declines to our internationally renowned seabird colonies including gannets, puffins and kittiwakes that breed and forage in the region.”

A spokesman for Mainstream Renewable Power – an  Ireland-based power company – said: “We are extremely disappointed that RSPB Scotland has chosen to ignore the Scottish courts, and the growing groundswell of public opinion, to pursue yet another court action.

“RSPB Scotland is putting at risk not only this £2 billion renewable energy development and the significant role it will play in tackling climate change but the hundreds of jobs and economic benefits that it represents.”

SSE said it was “disappointed” by the RSPB decision to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

The Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse did not reply to a request for comment by the deadline for Scottish Energy News.

See also 

LEGAL VERDICT: Why judges gave the go-ahead to Scottish ‘Quartet’ offshore wind farm plans by Inch Cape, Seagreen and Mainstream

16 Aug 2017

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