READING a recent headline ‘1,600 trees a DAY axed to pave the way for turbines’ took my mind back to a 2019 general election hustings when an attendee, objecting to yet another local windfarm proposal, described his home village as “surrounded by a ring of steel”.
Public opinion has been recently sought on a proposal to erect 26 turbines, some 200m high, in Balmacaan Forest close to Loch Ness. These are among 90 turbines mooted by developers between Loch Ness and Glen Affric, carpeting a popular tourist area.
Considering that, in the last five years local democracy has been ignored by this SNP Government – with local objections to forty North Highland onshore wind farms overruled – one would be justified in asking why bother asking our opinion?
One northern Councillor intimated that part of the problem stems from an “unholy alliance” of large profit-driven power companies and an SNP Government unwilling to consider its application system might be “imperfect”.
The arrogance of this government is breath-taking.
Renewable expansion is an established UK and Scottish Government policy; we must, however, adopt a more environmentally aesthetic alternative to what appears to be the current inexorable covering of our beautiful countryside.
The obvious alternative being a major shift towards offshore wind development, a move that could deliver a much-needed benefit across Scotland, particularly here in the Highlands.
Such a strategy would benefit InfraStrata under its Harland & Wolff brand, which recently purchased two BiFab yards out of administration in an £850,000 deal; gaining Methil in Fife and Arnish on Lewis, as well as other often forgotten Highland facilities like Global Energy Park in Easter Ross.
BiFab, purchased in 2018 by Canadian firm DF Barnes for £4 subsequently received at least £37 million from the tax payer, thus our Scottish Government became a minority shareholder. Its subsequent collapse demonstrated the catastrophic failure of Holyrood’s current cohort of politicians and bureaucrats to make any progress in delivering their supposed aspiration to reverse Scotland’s industrial decline.
The UK Government has poured billions into renewables. The Scottish Government put millions into Scottish fabrication facilities, one has to assume that was to facilitate their readiness to benefit from renewable developments, usher in that “second industrial revolution” and deliver John Swinney’s promised 28,000 direct renewable jobs.
Neither government used the tools at their disposal to ensure the necessary in-country procurement from these highly subsidised developments to realise Alex Salmond’s goal of Scotland becoming the “Saudi Arabia of Renewables”. As our political representation sat idly by watching the renewable jobs sail off into the sunset, Scotland has seen only 6 per cent of that forecast jobs bonanza!
Election after election, I have listened to candidates from across the political divide commit to regenerate the Highlands on the back of renewable jobs. Scotland’s first wind turbine was installed in 2007, we have installed around 1,500 turbines across the country – where is that regeneration, where are the jobs?
It is possible to deliver Scotland’s renewable commitment, ‘Save Our Hills’, ‘Save Our Skills’ and ‘Save Our Jobs’ – but sadly none of our mainstream political parties have demonstrated the will, drive or commitment to deliver either.
It’s time for Reform!