Leader: The public always picks up the tab

hen politicians involve themselves in planning matters around complex construction projects, it ends up costing taxpayers more money. As it has been disastrously so with Edinburgh’s trams scheme, so it is now with the equally controversial upgrade to the Beauly-Denny electricity transmission line, required to distribute power generated from wind farms soon to be proliferating in ever greater numbers across northern Scotland.

Shortly before this year’s Scottish Parliament elections, SNP ministers announced they were asking ScottishPower to put forward new proposals to mitigate the landscape impact of its part of the line near Stirling. This was done purely to win votes in the area, votes which it turned out the SNP did not need.

ScottishPower’s mitigation ideas amount to not much more than a bit of make-up on what will be a new ugly face in the landscape. It has rejected notions of putting the line underground to avoid the need for intrusive pylons, saying it would be far too expensive. Moreover, it says that if work does not start soon, it will cost an extra £1 million a month, money which ultimately electricity consumers will pay through their bills.

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The clash between improving the environment through more carbon-free electricity generation and the visual impact of these installations is bad enough, and the nation’s most inappropriate wind farm already despoils the landscape near Stirling. But is it not possible to do it without heaping more expense on the public?