‘Carpeting’ of land by wind farms will be crucial in local polls

Alex Salmond at the opening of Ayrshire`s Mark Hill windfarm (PA)
Alex Salmond at the opening of Ayrshire`s Mark Hill windfarm (PA)
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ALEX Salmond’s drive towards a “renewables revolution” is trampling over local democracy and creating growing anger towards Holyrood, it has been claimed.

A string of protest groups has sprung up across Dumfries and Galloway following plans to “carpet” the region with wind farms. Campaigners are angry at the SNP for overturning local council decisions to reject developments that many local people believe are scarring the countryside.

Government approval for a rash of renewables schemes is likely to be a key issue in next month’s council elections. Antipathy towards the developments was highlighted recently when Mr Salmond was jeered at a public meeting in Stranraer as he outlined the Scottish Government’s renewables strategy.

Conservative council leader Ivor Hyslop said: “It does feel a wee bit galling that you go through this process of saying, ‘Well actually we don’t think that’s appropriate for our area’. Then somebody turns round and says, ‘Well tough, you’re getting it’.

“There is concern that the local voice isn’t being heard – and it is down to the national policy.”

Controversial developments earmarked for Dumfries and Galloway have included a 23-turbine development at Blackcraig, which was signed off by outgoing minister Jim Mather at the tail end of the last Parliament, after a seven-year battle.

Last month, another 18-turbine development at Carscreugh was put through by the SNP government, despite having been rejected by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat/Independent administration on the council.

Hundreds of turbines now pepper the landscape across the region, prompting the emergence of a string of protest groups including GLARE (Galloway Landscape And Renewable Energy).

Co-ordinator Alison Chapman said: “People think there’s a huge democratic deficit. Local people have said no and the government, which pretends all the time they’re on the side of the working person, is destroying the very thing that makes people come to Scotland.

“The most likely impact is that people will lose trust and confidence in the ability of the local council to do anything. If what they do in the interests of the local community is simply overturned by central government in Edinburgh, there will be as much antipathy towards Edinburgh as there is towards any other capital.”

Outgoing senior Liberal Democrat Michael Dickie, who represented Annandale North and whose party are major windfarm supporters, says some areas need greater protection.

“There are an enormous number in Dumfries and Galloway and others being proposed,” he said.

“There’s a proliferation and there must a point where the area is being spoiled.”

Labour’s Ronnie Nicholson says the party is not against renewable energy. But he added: “We are against the carpeting of Dumfries and Galloway. There’s a proliferation of them here.”

He added: “We see it as a centralised agenda – they’re out of touch with what is going on here.”

The council area covers a massive rural land-mass, stretching 100 miles from Langholm to Stranraer.

Other issues likely to dominate are the state of local roads, with upgrades the A75 road between Dumfries and Stranraer.