Whichever side of the fence you were on, the last three weeks has been a roller coaster. Now Salmond has announced his resignation and we all look to what changes will manifest themselves. With Sturgeon being promoted as his replacement we have to ask is this a coronation with Salmond’s acolyte stepping into his shoes, or will the SNP cast off the shackles of the Salmond years and look for someone new to take the country forward until the next elections.
What we have lost over the last few months is a positive direction on the wind issues. The Issues mind, not the development! Many projects already approved have been put on hold as the financiers have been concerned at the financial position of iScotland and the future of subsidies mostly paid by rUK. Now that uncertainty is removed we have already heard evidence that some of the big players are shaking off their approvals and looking to move forward. No doubt projects in the pipeline will have received a similar boost of confidence. We have two financial issues here. Will the UK address the subsidy issue and reduce the levels of public support they enjoy and is someone going to grasp the nettle of energy production and push forward with new gas power station and fracking at the same time re-addressing the mothballing and/or closure of coal fired generation. The Issue is the sustainability and cost of renewable energy at a time when the UK, business and residents, needs affordable energy to compete in the world and to protect the less affluent in a population. Without doubt wind power, onshore and off is at a cost the country cannot afford.
What we have seen/missed is that over the last few weeks wind energy production has been at an all time low. The dreitch days of mists and fog covering the UK has exposed the futility of wind is a reliable energy source. However the press have been concentrated on the Scottish problem and Salmond’s promised departure; he has been the comeback kid many times before; has created it’s own chorus of breast beating from the media. Where was this lovely little Charlie Chaplin figure the young reporters are painting? The Nasty party, as some refer to the modern day SNP, was created in his image. Personable at times, yes, but unpleasant, arrogant and abrasive to anyone, friend or foe, that didn’t dance to his tune. The guy is not dead. We have no cause to eulogise him. On two issues, The Independence Referendum and the Wind Farms, he divided Scotland in two. Those divisions, both mental and physical, will take a generation or more to heal! Scotland needs to shake of the last three years of division and re-energise itself with the things it does well.
And wind ain’t one of them!
We need now to hold the Government to their word on Wild Lands; Rannoch Moor and Stronelairg; and to re-address the planning rules that allow Energy Consents to over-rule local planning decisions. We need to look at Planning Appeals and make it a level playing field where the community can challenge approvals as the developers can challenge refusals. We need to make appeals a road of last resort when rules have been broken not an automatic route for developers who are frustrated when applications are refused on good grounds. We also need to make sure that councils are protected from costs on appeal for doing what they have been democratically appointed to do but impose punitive costs on developers for spurious appeals. We need to make the planning fair for communities which means no repetitive applications and some respite for communities attacked by cumulative applications. Councils should be empowered to ‘paint’ no go zones where applications are simply barred due to impact on local communities who have been under “attack” from the wind farm developers. We should also demand a complete ban on extensions. When a wind farm reduces the number of turbines to get approval, surely it is nonsense to allow an extension application sometimes before the original erection is completed!