The First Minister and the Scottish Government have made it clear they are committed to an increase in renewable technology, moving away from damaging carbon-rich fossil fuels.
Renewables encompasses many different producers of energy – but the one that has the most impact is undoubtedly the wind farm.
The argument is already extremely polarised: for those who support the building of turbines, they are, at worst, a mild distraction among the rolling hills o fScotland’s countryside; for those opposed, they are a blot on the landscape that threatens rural vistas – and they mar visitor experiences for tourists who come to enjoy the scenery.
Just as the huge expansion of mobile phone networks, years ago, brought complaints from residents about the ugly phone masts being installed near their homes, so too has the installation of large turbines brought objections – and from a wider base.
Some councils have called for moratoriums on applications, organisations like the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the John Muir Trust – whose chief executive Stuart Brooks spoke to Holyrood in the last issue – have raised concerns about where wind farms are being sited.
And there is a perception that they are being ignored. Figures released this month showed that 83 per cent of all major onshore wind farm applications submitted to the Government were approved – raising concerns that developers were effectively able to bypass councils.
The Scottish Conservatives have been particularly vocal about the SNP Government’s policies, with Ruth Davidson accusing Alex Salmond of a “scorched earth policy”. In her speech to mark a year since being elected leader, she said: “Communities across Scotland are crying out for some sense of balance amidst the SNP Government’s headlong rush to carpet the countryside with wind turbines.”
Last month hundreds of renewable energy companies descended on Glasgow for the Renewable UK conference, demonstrating the strength of the sector. Companies there, such as RES, were keen to stress that they worked hard with communities to overcome “scare stories” and ensure they had people living near turbines on side.
And this month renewables firm Infinergy announced a £9m community benefit fund as part of its 24-turbine Limekiln wind farm in Caithness over the 25-year life of the project.