THE Scottish Government has been urged to listen to local opinion after a report revealed ministers were approving major wind-farm projects, while local authorities were turning more down.
Figures from trade body RenewableUK show all four onshore wind-farm applications for projects of more than 50MW that went to ministers for approval last year were given the go-ahead.
The Blacklaw Extension in Lanarkshire, Blackcraig in the Galloway hills, Dunmaglass, south of Inverness, and Fallago Rig in the Borders, with a cumulative capacity of 381MW, were all approved.
However, no schemes of more than 50MW were decided elsewhere in the UK, with larger projects in England increasingly being rejected and smaller ones more likely to be approved.
This was a significant drop in the overall number of major wind-farm projects approved in the UK, from eight in 2009–10 (total 493MW) and six in 2008–9 (total 724MW).
However, the state-of-the-industry report says local approval rates in Scotland have seen the steepest fall over the past three years in terms of consented capacity – down from 58 per cent in 2008-9 and 57 per cent in 2009–10, to only 39 per cent.
Lyndsey Ward, who was among campaigners who staged a protest at the SNP conference in Inverness last Saturday over the growing number of wind farms, said: “The last major wind farm refused was in 2008.
“The developments below 50MW, which can still be quite large, go through the local planning system and it’s the councillors who are having the final say on whether they are approved.
“I would hope it’s because local councillors are listening to the people and that’s why the developments are not going through, as opposed to the bigger ones that are going to central government.
“If people did not lobby against wind farms they would just go through. That must be something Alex Salmond should listen to.”
Ms Ward is co-founder of the Wind Farm Action Group and an opponent of the planned 23-turbine Druim Ba wind farm above Loch Ness. The project was unanimously opposed by Highland Council last month but will now be discussed at a public inquiry before the Scottish Government has the final say.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said every wind farm application was assessed on its merits, taking into account the views of various interested parties, local communities and the public.
“The Scottish Government will only allow wind farms to be built where the impacts have been found to be acceptable – and unsuitable applications are rejected,” she said.
“The Scottish Government also recognises that onshore wind can create opportunities for communities as well providing jobs and growth, contributing to our broader renewables targets as part of a mix of energy sources.”