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Far north MP Jamie Stone calls for Spittal to Beauly high-voltage power line to be laid undersea 'whatever the cost'

By Caroline McMorran

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A proposed 100-mile high-voltage power line from Spittal to Beauly should be laid on the sea bed rather than above ground, whatever the cost, MP Jamie Stone has said.

Mr Stone is to raise the issue with Clair Coutinho, Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, in the new year after his request for a meeting with her was facilitated by the Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt.

MP Jamie Stone at last Friday's Pylon Pressure meeting. Picture: Betty Grieve
MP Jamie Stone at last Friday's Pylon Pressure meeting. Picture: Betty Grieve

SSEN Transmission is facing a massive backlash from members of affected communities over its proposal to run a line of 57m high pylons carrying a 400kV line through Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire. New sub-stations are also proposed at Spittal, Loch Buidhe and Beauly.

Opponents say it is a massive infrastructure project which will blight the beautiful countryside.

SSEN which has now published reports from its initial consultation exercise, has said upgrades to the electricity infrastructure are needed to connect renewables projects and support the drive towards net zero. The company said the project would bring hundreds of jobs to the HIghlands, new homes and £32 million in community benefit.

Mr Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, spoke about his lobbying efforts at a public meeting organised by campaign group Pylon Pressure to Stop SSEN in Helmsdale on Friday.

Speaking after the meeting, he said: “My argument will be simple – it is already proposed to lay one subsea cable, so why not put in one or two more and move all the electricity south that way?

“Yes it would cost more, but this is a strategic decision for the whole of the UK, so why not spend more now and get the best long-term infrastructure for many years to come. After all, they laid telegraph cables across the whole Atlantic in the middle of the 19th century.”

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross SNP MSP Maree Todd also attended the meeting.

She told those present: “I have seen evidence of your views being considered and I will continue to engage with SSEN to ensure my constituents are shaping the project in a meaningful way and that we arrive at a solution that will strike the right balance.”

Presentations were made by Denise Davis and Elaine Hodgson, founding members of campaign group Communities B4 Power Companies (CB4PC).

The group is demanding evidence of the need for the infrastructure and the hundreds of new turbines that will follow. It has said that the project is about "money for SSEN's shareholders. Nothing else."

Ms Davis said: "We know from the figures which have been provided to us by our planning policy expert, that Scotland already has installed, under construction, waiting construction, and in planning, along with Scotwind, over 72GW of renewable energy capacity from wind farms alone. This figure does not include energy from any other renewable technologies, such as hydro and solar.

"This figure is eight times what Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) predicts Scotland will need by 2042. It is 28GW less than the 100GW prediction Ofgem has made for the entire UK’s energy needs in 2042! Does the Scottish Government want Scotland to produce all of the UK’s energy?"

A member of the audience at Friday's meeting said: "Why don't we produce the energy where it's needed instead of here? This superhighway will send electricity through Scotland to England and does not benefit us. All it will do for Scotland is destroy a beautiful area and for what?"

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