Scottish Government ministers don't care about us, says campaigner as new map shows extent of Caithness wind farms
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our brand new digital subscription packages!
The spread of wind farms across Caithness shows that Scottish Government ministers don't care about local people, a campaigner has claimed.
"We're just a big wind energy generator, that's how they see us," said Brenda Herrick of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum.
She argued that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scotland's energy minister Paul Wheelhouse "have no idea of what it's like living surrounded by huge turbines".
Mrs Herrick was speaking after an updated online map from Highland Council revealed the extent of wind energy developments – either already built or in the pipeline – across the region.
She has calculated that in Caithness there are approximately 333 onshore wind turbines either approved or constructed, with around 209 in planning. These figures cover single turbines as well as whole wind farms.
Caithness has far more of these single dots than anywhere else – we just look like a bad case of measles.
Each turbine location is represented by a single dot when the map is enlarged.
“It interesting that Caithness has far more of these single dots than anywhere else in Highland," Mrs Herrick said. "We just look like a bad case of measles. It's all a mess.
"I remember Robert Coghill, years ago when he was a councillor, saying that we were already at the capacity – and look where we are now. We're doing far more than our share.”
Mrs Herrick also claimed that the consultation process on wind farm planning applications had suffered because of the pandemic.
“At the moment, as a lot of people are complaining, there's no proper consultation," she said. "The fact that everything is online excludes so many people who don't have good broadband.
"And it's not the same as going to a village hall or whatever and seeing it all laid out and being able to talk about it to the developers' representatives. These are not proper consultations, but it hasn't stopped them going on submitting applications."
Mrs Herrick picked out a comment from last year in which Ms Sturgeon reportedly said: “Power comes from people, not from politicians. The will of the people in any country has to prevail."
While that remark was in relation to the Scottish independence issue, Mrs Herrick argued: “It should apply to everything if she is going to say that."
Although there have been demonstrations and petitions against wind developments over the years, Mrs Herrick acknowledged that ultimately these had made no difference.
"The ministers just don't take any notice," she said. "The only people they're interested in are XR [Extinction Rebellion] – young people. That's what they want to listen to.
"They've all been brainwashed in school to think that the world is going to come to an end, they all listen to Greta [Thunberg] and that's the popular message. But campaigning against renewables is just not popular, it's not politically correct.
"It's the same with our hospital and our transport and everything up here. Holyrood doesn't care about us – we're too far from everything.
"They don't think about us, and of course they don't have to live with them. Nicola Sturgeon and Paul Wheelhouse have no idea of what it's like living surrounded by huge turbines."
In addition to the onshore wind sites mapped by the council, the Beatrice offshore wind farm has 84 turbines and there will be more than that in the nearby Moray East project. Plans have been lodged for a development consisting of between six and 10 floating turbines around six kilometres north-west of Dounreay.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing clean, green energy from the right developments in the right place, through a planning system which ensures local communities have their say, and all applications for wind farm developments are subject to consultation with the public and statutory and local bodies, including community councils. This is the case regardless of whether applications are determined by planning authorities or, as the case may be, Scottish ministers.
“We also ensure all relevant factors, including any impacts on local communities, are considered alongside advice from consultees throughout the planning or Electricity Act consent processes for wind farms before any decisions are made. Assessing landscape and visual effects together with effects on cultural and natural heritage and the economy forms a key part of all wind farm applications.
“We encourage early and meaningful engagement by developers with any communities who would be affected by wind farm development proposals to allow for early design changes, often prior to applications being submitted.
“The energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, lives in a rural area of the Scottish Borders that has seen a number of wind farm projects developed within the landscape and is very aware of the importance of considering the impact on landscape and visual amenity and upon communities in reaching a determination of an application. Before the Covid pandemic, the minister undertook private site visits to Caithness to assess the landscape and context of applications prior to making his determinations.”