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Scotland Against Spin calls on Scottish Government to give rural communities a better say over onshore wind farm developments

By Rachel Smart

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Highland MSP Douglas Ross thinks Scotland should follow England's lead over energy. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Highland MSP Douglas Ross thinks Scotland should follow England's lead over energy. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The UK government listens to rural communities about wind farms and it is “time the Scottish Government did the same,” according to a campaign group.

Scotland Against Spin wants the planning process overhauled so that communities can more effectively oppose unwanted onshore wind farms.

They renewed their calls as the UK government’s Energy Security Strategy will offer a “limited” number of communities lower bills if turbines are located nearby.

The group wants parity with English planning legislation for onshore wind farm developments to give communities more of a say on what is agreed.

The issue for Scotland Against Spin is that many rural Scottish communities – including those in Caithness – are having wind farms forced upon them, despite local opposition.

A statement released by the group said: “Scottish communities and local authorities are continually overruled by Scottish ministers.

“Although the government recognises that Scotland now produces all of its own energy needs from renewables, commercial developers know they can continue to permanently exploit and destroy our precious landscapes for profit, in the knowledge that this is supported by our Scottish Government.”

Scottish Conservative leader and Highland MSP Douglas Ross has backed the call for the SNP/Green coalition to follow Westminster's strategy.

“I think the position in England is one that the SNP government would do well to follow here,” he said.

“The Scottish Conservatives are in favour of a mix of energy sources but on-shore wind farm developments should only happen when they have the consent of local communities.

“Too often the SNP ride roughshod over public opinion and give the green light to these being installed despite the opposition of local authorities.”

That also echoes Highland Council’s Onshore Wind Policy Statement, released earlier this year, calling on the government to have a policy which is “properly planned, through national, regional and local spatial planning,” which also “takes into consideration the views and aspirations of our communities”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The vast majority of planning appeals to ministers are decided by independent reporters, who are based in communities throughout Scotland.

“Reporters are required to make decisions on the planning merits of each case, taking into account local views, and in accordance with the development plan, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

“Approvals by reporters on all appeals, including onshore wind farms, represented 0.3 per cent of permissions granted during the last financial year. The Scottish Government’s ongoing planning reforms will give communities a greater say in their local areas.”

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