VOTERS in Scotland appear to be turning away from wind farms, a new survey has shown, in a blow to the Scottish Government’s renewable ambitions.
A poll carried out for Friends of the Earth has revealed that just 18 per cent of people north of the Border put wind power as their first choice for future energy supply.
The YouGov survey showed that while 65 per cent believe wind should be part of the mix, this was down from 78 per cent seen in a similar survey by Scottish Renewables in 2010.
Instead the preferred choice in Scotland is for tidal and wave energy to become the main supplier with 32 per cent backing the option, even though it is still in its early development stage.
The latest survey was published as US billionaire Donald Trump arrived in Scotland to give evidence opposing wind turbines to a Holyrood committee on Wednesday.
Mr Trump has waded into the row after proposals were made to erect off shore wind turbines near his Aberdeenshire golf resort development.
SNP ministers want the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity produced by renewable sources with more than half of the projected 60 gigawatts coming from offshore and onshore wind turbines.
They have prioritised the development of offshore turbines which they believe can produce 25GW, a move that has angered Mr Trump.
The survey was carried out by YouGov for Friends of the Earth between 15 and 17 April with 2,800 people polled across the UK, including 337 in Scotland.
The figures showed that in the UK as a whole there is still significant support for nuclear, with 26 per cent making it their first option for future power supply.
But the poll also showed that 85 per cent in the UK supported the idea of the government introducing legislation to make energy companies cut their use of foreign fossil fuels and increase wind, wave, solar, hydro and tidal sources of electricity.
However, in Scotland, while support for renewables remained strong, wind energy and solar power were not well supported, with 18 per cent and 17 per cent respectively backing them as their first choice of new power generation.
Murdo Fraser MSP, the Conservative convener of the economy, energy and tourism committee which will be questioning Mr Trump this week, said the survey was evidence that “the vast majority of people are yet to be convinced about wind energy”.
He said: “On that basis, it provides even more reason for the Scottish Government to cool their love affair with wind farms.
“Communities across Scotland are seeing their local authorities do right by them and refusing these applications, only for the SNP to overturn them to suit their policies.”
However, SNP energy minister Fergus Ewing pointed out that 88 per cent of those polled in Scotland supported increasing the amount of electricity produced from domestic renewable sources.
He said: “The Scottish Government’s energy policy – to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2020 – clearly reflects the wishes of the people of Scotland.
“Scotland has tremendous renewable potential and communities mobilised to develop their own energy schemes – including a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind potential – and we have a responsibility to ensure Scotland benefits.”
Labour agreed wind power needs to be part of the mix, especially as wave and tidal energy have yet to be fully developed.
Tom Greatrex MP, Labour’s shadow energy minister in Westminster, said: “Scotland and the UK have significant potential in renewable energy, which could create jobs as well as cleaner electricity for the future.
“Scotland will need to use baseload electricity for when the wind is not blowing, and across Britain consumers can benefit from low-carbon renewable power when it is. That is why pooling our resources makes sense, and separation of our energy market would be a retrograde step.”
Ahead of an international clean energy conference in London, at which the Prime Minister is expected to make his first major environmental speech since coming to power, Friends of the Earth urged Mr Cameron to back clean British energy.
Friends of the Earth Scotland insisted that Mr Trump’s campaign against wind farms had been shown to “completely be out of step” with public opinion in Scotland.
Stan Blackley, chief executive of the green group, said: “Scotland is uniquely placed to lead the transition to a renewables-based energy future and it is clear that this move has enormous public support.
“This poll shows that the carbon dinosaurs who want to build new thermal power stations, and ill-informed doom-mongers such as Donald Trump, are completely out of step with Scottish public opinion.”