Wind farms are being pushed through planning by the Scottish Government across vast areas of the country as ministers regularly overrule local decision-makers.
Official figures reveal major turbines have even been approved in areas designated “wild lands” under new national conservation plans.
The Scottish Government has been accused of showing “contempt for local democracy” as it pursues an “obsession” with Green energy sources.
But ministers insist they always consider local opinions and decisions are reached in line with clear guidelines. Two-thirds of wind farm developments, which are rejected by local councils, have then been pushed through by Scottish ministers on appeal.
A total of 17 applications were refused by local authorities over the past year, but 11 of these decisions were then overturned by ministers.
Taking in total wind farm appeals, which includes those against specific conditions or where there was a failure to reach a decision locally, the majority are approved by ministers. Just ten were rejected, while 13 were given the green light.
Tory Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alexander Stewart said, who obtained the figures through parliamentary answers, said: “The minister’s answer to my question shows the Scottish Government’s clear contempt for local democracy.
“Two-thirds of wind farm applications rejected by local authorities who clearly know and respect their own rural environments, have been overturned by the SNP so far this year.”
He added: “The SNP is displaying its obsessiveness with wind energy at the expense of other sources.
“Communities across Scotland have complained about too many turbines spoiling local scenery.
“Indeed some councils have even asked for moratoriums to be put in place to cope with the influx of planning applications, yet despite claiming to respect local democracy, the SNP has repeatedly overruled decisions made by councillors and planners – displaying clear contempt for local democracy.”
The push towards green energy sources, including wind farms, is driven by the SNP’s government’s pledge to generate all of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by the end of the decade.
Traditional power stations such as the now axed Longannet and Cockenzie coal-fired facilities in Fife and East Lothian are viewed as “dirty” energy sources as they pump out carbon dioxide which contributes towards global warming.
But there are growing fears that the turbines are scarring many of Scotland’s most pristine natural landscapes, prompting calls for a moratorium on development.
The most controversial case in the past year saw ministers approve the 22-turbine Creag Riabhach wind farm on the Altnaharra Estate, near Lairg, in the north Highlands, despite this being located on a new map of Scotland’s Wild Lands which were expected to escape developments.
Mountaineering Scotland chief executive officer, David Gibson: “Anyone concerned about democracy in Scotland should be concerned that decisions made by locally-elected representatives about wind farm projects are being regularly overturned on appeal.
“One might take the view that the continuing proliferation of wind farms, supported by Scottish Government policy and big business, means that the appeals process could be skewed in favour of approval.”
A poll released by the John Muir Trust earlier this month found 80 per cent of Scots agree that Wild Land Areas should be protected from large-scale infrastructure such as industrial-scale wind farms. It also found that 55 per cent of people are less likely to visit scenic areas that contain massive wind farms.
Helen McDade, head of policy at the trust, said: “When considering such applications in the future, we would hope the planning minister will recognise not only local concerns, but also the strong desire nationally to keep our wild places free from intrusive, insensitive industrial-scale development.”
The Scottish Government insists that “clear planning policies” are in place to ensure wind farms are developed only in appropriate locations. A spokesman added: “Planning reporters consider all relevant information and representations from the local community.”
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Onshore wind provides the bulk of Scotland’s green energy - displacing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions each year - and supports thousands of jobs across the country.
“Scotland’s planning processes are rightly designed to strike the correct balance between harnessing our natural resources to produce more renewable energy and protecting our most cherished and important landscapes.
“Record levels of renewable power output alongside record tourism numbers and 73% support for onshore wind all suggest the Scottish Government is getting the balance right.”