SCOTLAND’S local councils should be handed the power to delay wind farms by a year as part of a shake-up of energy policy demanded by the Conservatives.
SCOTLAND’S councils would be handed the power to suspend wind-farm schemes for a year, under a Conservative plan to cut the number being built.
The party says the powers are needed to curb the thousands of controversial wind farms it claims will be built as part of the SNP’s flagship renewable energy policy. The Tories also said subsidies for renewables should be reduced by 50 per cent to cut household bills.
Scottish taxpayers pay almost £400 million a year to subsidise some 2,000 onshore and offshore turbines, according to figures from the Conservatives.
They claim the annual taxpayer subsidy for green energy will double to almost £800m in the next few years if the 1,329 turbines approved or under construction are built and the 1,873 in the pipeline gain consent.
Ministers want Scotland’s renewables sector to generate 100 per cent of the nation’s electricity supply by 2020.
However, the Conservatives say the SNP’s plans rely too heavily on wind farms and that Scotland’s energy needs should be met from a mix of sources, such as nuclear power and shale gas.
Under the Tories’ proposed shake-up, wind farms would be built only if they were at least two kilometres, or one and a quarter miles, away from homes.
Nearly 10,000 people have objected directly to the Scottish Government about major wind farm applications in the past five years, figures published by the Conservatives showed.
They said Scottish ministers should now change planning laws to allow councils struggling to deal with large numbers of wind-farm applications to suspend all new proposals for turbines of 5MW for up to a year.
Under the Tory plans, a tribunal would be set up to consider cases where homeowners claimed their property value had diminished due to wind farms. Ministers would also carry out a study on how wind farms had impacted on health, as part of the “Power With Responsibility” policy announced by party leader Ruth Davidson.
She said: “This is a comprehensive review of Scotland’s energy needs, which does not focus narrowly on one particular part of the industry to meet demand.”
Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said the expansion of wind farms had to be “brought to a halt”, as he claimed the number of turbines in Scotland would rise to more than 5,000 in the coming years.
He backed the one-year moratoriums on schemes as well as a 50 per cent cut in the annual taxpayer subsidies of £350m for onshore wind and £47.6m offshore.
He said: “The thousands of turbines in operation, being built or in the planning stage, mean that Scotland will easily overshoot its electricity target. This exposes the folly of covering large swathes of our cherished countryside with turbines, in many cases against the will of local communities and councils.”
But SNP MSP John Wilson warned suspending wind-farm schemes and cutting subsidies would lead to a sharp rise in bills.
He said: “The proposal to reduce subsidies would have the effect of increasing household bills as a time when the renewables sector is poised to reduce energy prices.”
Energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “These proposals are ill thought through, contradict UK government policy and demonstrate a general ignorance about energy policy and the renewables industry.”