Around 150 members of the public attended a debate in the Scottish parliament on a cold Thursday night in December. Why? Because the Scottish people have had enough of being ignored and trampled on by the Klondike rush for wind. Neil Findlay, MSP (LAB)who’s debate it was, said: “What is happening is uncoordinated, unplanned and incoherent and resembles the prospecting days of the American gold rush, with landowners hawking their land for rental and developers seeing shiny treasure in the form of subsidies from renewables obligation certificates and feed-in tariffs.”.
In other words it is all about money and greed!
The impact on the Chamber was evident when such large numbers of the public entered the gallery to hear the debate. Many thought that the First Minister looked surprised!
Understandably the attending public were very disappointed that neither Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon could be bothered to stay and even listen!
Graeme Pearson MSP( Lab) instigated this debate after attending a public meeting in Ballantrae arranged by Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS). After doing research he chaired the Scottish National Windfarm Conference in Ayr and has vowed to help the CATS fight against the injustice of wind farms which inflict fuel poverty on many of its citizens. Graeme, having picked up a document in the chamber, said, “I am somewhat concerned that a document that has been published by Scottish Renewables—which I understand to be a private company, or at least a pressure group—has been tendered at the back of our chamber alongside official documents.”.
He went on to point out that much of the content of this document was questionable.
And, in MSP (Con) Anabelle Goldie’s words:
“The logical conclusion of what has happened over the past four and a half years under the policy that has been driven by the Scottish Government is that we now have a strategic energy policy that undoubtedly depends on a contribution from wind turbines.
It is a policy that is pursued with vigour by ministers, the very consequence of which is to subject our planning system to what is now manifestly intolerable strain.
I am aware from my own West Scotland region, not least with communities such as Uplawmoor, that there are communities and individuals throughout Scotland who feel marginalised, ignored and irrelevant and who have absolutely no confidence in the planning system.
That is not only intolerable; it is utterly wrong.
My message to the minister is simple:
The Government should review its energy policy and current planning law and procedure because the public in Scotland are ill served by both, and the current position is unsustainable and ludicrous.
It is within the control and the power of the Scottish Government to take corrective action now, and there are communities throughout Scotland—as is manifest from the number of members of the public who are here tonight—that are calling on the Scottish Government to sort out the issue and to do so soon.
The motion and call for a Moratorium on wind farms came surprisingly from Alex Fergusson MSP ( Con)who although admitting to having a vested interest, in that he receives revenue from 7 turbines on Hadyard Hill said: “The cumulative impact of more and more wind farms is becoming almost unbearable for some people—in fact, I would suggest, for an increasing number of people. I respectfully suggest to the Government that the time has come to consider a moratorium on further development until people’s justifiable concerns have been addressed.”
(When Hadyard Hill was built (one of the first wind farms in Scotland) members of the public , and Alex Fergusson, I suspect did not understand the implications of ROCs and how they would create this greed for wind enhanced profit through these subsidies.)
Christine Grahame (SNP) MSP fully supported the motion, which we commend her for.
She stated: “I have concerns about what is called community benefit, as it often seems to amount somewhat to a bribe from developers. A community benefit may benefit one community while disbenefiting others. I have seen communities divided, where one community is quite happy to have the turbines because they are getting a new community hall or a road built, while another community is looking at that happening and does not get anything except for having its landscape defaced.
Defacing the landscape is a terribly important issue. I have learned the new phrase “landscape signature”, and one can see no better example of that than at Walkerburn. When one looks at the shape of the hills beyond, one can see a real landscape signature, which was going to have a string of turbines against it.”
Murdo Fraser MSP (Con) ”Wind power is not free but, like all renewable energy, is subsidised. Indeed, renewable energy is the most subsidised form of energy production.
We are all paying for it.
We are taxing the poor, who are already struggling with fuel poverty, to give money to rich power companies that then pass it on to rich landowners.
We are robbing the poor to give to the rich. It is Robin Hood in reverse. Worse still, we are paying power companies even when power is not being produced and the turbines are standing idle.
Those of us who attended the presentation in the Parliament a few weeks ago by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers heard its concern that, because of the potential loss of conventional generating capacity in Scotland in the coming years, the spinning reserve will in future have to be imported from England or France.
It would be a rich irony indeed if the greening of the Scottish energy industry was made possible only because of France’s investment in nuclear power, but that is where we are heading.
My final point is on planning, which was raised by Neil Findlay, John Lamont and other members throughout the chamber.
The planning regime for large-scale onshore renewables is utterly inadequate and communities throughout the country feel under siege from speculative proposals from developers.
That is the situation in Perth and Kinross and many other parts of the country.
The worst aspect is that local authorities spend a great deal of time devising local plans and identifying suitable sites for development, and democratically elected local planning committees base decisions on those local plans, but when appeals are made to the Scottish Government, it completely disregards the local decision making that has taken place.
That is not democratic and it does not promote local accountability or localism. It shows disregard, if not contempt, for local decision making. The Scottish Government claims to speak for the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland are here in the gallery tonight and it is time that the Scottish Government started speaking up for them.
The response to the debate from the Minister Fergus Ewing (SNP)was considered to be poor, failing to answer the concerns raised during the debate. He said, “The Scottish planning system is committed to delivery of increased renewable energy capacity. It also seeks to safeguard communities and the environment. The system is a framework that we inherited and that largely has proceeded on the same basis since before this Government came to office.”. The public wonders why this government did not put in the relevant planning policies to safeguard the communities and the environment, before pushing ahead with new (questionably, unachievable) renewable targets.
He did not have the courage to reveal major plans for our coastlines with more shallow offshore development which he had just agreed in a keynote speech at the opening day of the European Wind Energy Association. So much for an honest and transparent government.