Tories unveil action plan for rural Scotland

Murdo Fraser insisted it should be 'up to local communities whether they want a new wind farm on their back door'. Picture: Andrew Cowan
Murdo Fraser insisted it should be 'up to local communities whether they want a new wind farm on their back door'. Picture: Andrew Cowan
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COUNCILS should be given the right to block new wind farms in their area, a new action plan for rural Scotland from the Conservatives says.

Tory enterprise spokesman Murdo Fraser yesterday insisted it should be “up to local communities whether they want a new wind farm on their back door”.

The new blueprint for the countryside from the Conservatives also makes connecting 95 per cent of rural homes to high-speed broadband a priority.

Leader Ruth Davidson said Scotland is “one of the most centralised regions in the developed world” as the action plan called for a review of the national ­Police Scotland force to ensure it is fully accountable to those living outside towns and cities.

Any proposals for land reform should be “balanced”, the Conservatives said, making clear their opposition to moves to erode property ownership, but stating they would support a crackdown on tax avoidance, by landowners as well as funding for communities looking to lease land over the long-term.

The action plan, which was launched by Ms Davidson and Mr Fraser on a visit to Stirling, also sets out a need for better bus links and more affordable housing in such communities.

Mr Fraser said the party wanted to “hand power and opportunity back to local rural communities”.

He said: “Land reform is part of that but we need to think much bigger than the SNP’s narrow ideological focus. Take broadband: If you’re a young entrepreneur living in rural Scotland with a great idea for a start-up tech business, you shouldn’t have to go to the city to get a decent internet connection.

“So, our priority for rural Scotland is to accelerate the roll-out of superfast broadband to 95 per cent of homes in rural Scotland.”

Mr Fraser added: “Let’s hand more power back to local councils. It should be up to local communities whether they want a new wind farm on their back door.

“We support councils getting the right to block new wind farm applications – and compensation from developers for people whose properties fall in value as a result.”

He said: “On law and order, people need to feel like their local community is being respected. So, we back a review of the national police force to ensure we don’t have a one-size-fits-all police service.”

With the Tories proposing to increase subsidies for bus routes in rural Scotland, he argued that there should be “more support for the buses that provide a lifeline for so many villages and towns”.

More affordable homes are needed to help “families who can’t afford rents in rural Scotland”, Mr Fraser said.

He added: “What matters in rural Scotland is not who owns land, but how it is used.” While Mr Fraser claimed the “current land reform plans by the SNP government are indicative of a Central Belt government that doesn’t get rural Scotland”, he said: “Our plan is for responsible land use for the long-term.

“The SNP’s plan to erode property rights and tax rural ­estates’ sporting rights will simply cost jobs and deter investment.

“We need a balanced plan which backs the principle of property ownership but also cracks down on tax avoidance by landowners and gives support for communities which want to lease land for the long-term.”

Ms Davidson added: “Scotland is one of the most centralised nations in the developed world and it can seem to many that it is run entirely from within SEE ALSO

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Call for tougher windfarm scrutiny\link to article

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