The convener of the Environment, Rural Affairs and Climate Committee has blasted his local council for dragging its feet on planning applications for onshore wind farms, calling it “a leading and shameful example” and part of a “disgusting coalition” against renewables projects.
Rob Gibson, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, attacked Highland Council in an interview with Holyrood on the Government’s renewables targets, saying: “There seem to be great qualms from individual councillors and officials who do not recognise the climate change imperative as strongly as they should.” Gibson, whose comments were directed at local authorities across Scotland, added: “My own council in Highland is a leading and shameful example.” Outlining the obstacles to the Scottish Government’s goal of producing 100 per cent of domestic electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020, Gibson said: “I’m particularly concerned about the issues that were raised in the Energy Committee’s report about our planning system.
“It’s not going with the thrust of Government policy in many council areas, where onshore wind farms in particular don’t just fall prey to gross misinformation from objectors – gross misinformation – but also councils that are not prepared to face up to their climate change responsibilities.” Responding to a series of recent stories in the media questioning the ability of the Government to meet its targets, Gibson also had harsh words for the media.
“It’s not a question at all about them being unrealistic. It’s political opposition to the Government’s ambition and it’s a disgusting coalition of newspapers, the BBC and some very ill-informed individuals who are extremely economical with the truth,” he said.
“People are making stories about folk being compensated because they can’t get electricity into the grid, which is just another in a whole string of negative stories that are blown out of proportion, like the long lens photographs that newspapers use to try and pretend that wind farms are close to buildings. It’s a really badly skewed debate that’s taking place.
“We have a media which is not seeing the big picture of climate change and Scotland’s huge ability to benefit from the creation of green energy.”
Responding to Gibson’s comments, Councillor Ian Ross, chairman of the Planning, Environment and Development Committee of Highland Council, said: “Highland Council was one of the first councils to produce an ambitious and comprehensive strategy for renewable. It is a council which established a Sustainable Development committee in the early part of last decade and has consistently promoted the sustainability agenda. We are a council actively introducing renewables in our own buildings – including wind turbines and biomass.
“The council is currently in the late stage of renewing its spatial strategy for onshore windfarms and is going out to consultation on a supplementary guidance for small-scale wind turbines. It should also be noted that there has been a large number of wind farm developments across Highlands and this makes a significant contribution to Scotland’s renewable targets.
“As of August 2011 we have 19 operating wind farms in the Highlands with 480.5MW of installed capacity and 16 more approved or under construction providing a further 552.7MW of installed capacity. At August 2011 there were a further 54 which had been submitted or were seeking a scoping opinion and 2 under appeal.”