Wind energy planning guidelines

The Scottish Government has published draft planning policies that prohibit wind farms in the nearly 20% of the country. They have also proposed “strengthened environmental protection” against wind energy development for a wider area encompassing Scotland’s wildest and most scenic land, which accounts for about a third of the countryside.

Planning minister Derek MacKay said they would help forge a better balance in planning decisions between energy needs and the environment. He said: “The consultation on the National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy will influence development plans across the country for the next 30 years affecting every part of Scotland. By providing a clear vision, the proposals will be used to guide future development that will help Scotland achieve its ambitious renewable energy targets and also increase protection for our country’s most environmentally important areas.”

The plan was supported by the John Muir Trust and SNH. The industry lobby group Scottish Renewables felt the restrictions went too far and would undermine renewable targets.

However, anti turbine groups branded the proposals both damaging and weak. Linda Holt, spokeswoman for Scotland Against Spin, accused the SNP of “fiddling while Rome burns”. She said: “There is no doubt that this just adds to the pressure on the rest of Scotland. It’s still open season for the wind industry in Scotland. Any extra discouragement to ‘turbinise’ the 31 per cent of the wildest or most scenic land just ups the pressure on the remaining 69 per cent of Scotland.”

Meanwhile the Scottish government claims to be ahead of its target for the amount of energy projects to be owned by local or community groups. The target is 500MW and the latest figures reveal more than 200MW of community owned renewable energy is being produced from more than 5,000 locally owned schemes. This represents a 39% increase on the previous year. Scottish energy minister, Fergus Ewing, said achieving the 500MW target would be worth £2.4 billion to communities and businesses during the lifetime of the energy projects.

To visually reinforce the economic importance of renewables an interactive map has been launched to shows thousands are employed in the energy sector across the Highlands and Islands. To view the map, visit: http://www.hi-energy.org.uk/map.htm

The figures show that there are currently in excess of 15,000 working in the energy industry in the Highlands and Islands. The 15,000 figure includes over 5,000 oil and gas employees in the North Sea who are based in the Highlands and Islands, and another 2,000 direct and contracted staff working on transmission and distribution upgrades for Scottish and Southern Energy in the region.

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