03 October 2013
Scottish government in wind farm legal 'setback'
Alex Salmond's flagship wind farm construction programme has been put into doubt because of a legal dispute.
Anti-wind campaigners have been told of a ruling that means nearly all turbines will need an electricity-generating licence from the Ofgem regulator if planning consent is to be granted, but in some cases this has not been sought, according to Scotland Against Spin.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which is led by first minister Alex Salmond, has made eco-friendly energy one of its key manifesto points and promised voters to embark on a massive wind farm construction campaign.
However, some rural groups have protested that this will ruin their local landscapes and complain that turbines are an eyesore that blight previously idyllic areas of the Celtic nation.
Graham Lang, chairman of Scotland Against Spin, said: "Scotland is being besieged by speculative wind farm applications which are time-consuming and expensive for local planning departments, and increasingly unpopular with the communities they threaten."
Mr Lang's highlighting of the legal obligation to get consent from Ofgem could mean a number of planned developments are cancelled, but it is unclear how strict the watchdog will be since it also supports the development of renewable energy sources as part of the diversification of the UK's energy market.
Scottish Borders Council is one of the main opponents of proposed wind farms and it will likely use the Court of Session ruling to give further ammunition to its opposition of a RWE Npower site that has been backed by the SNP.
However, the Scottish government is appealing the verdict, which is being referred to in the press as the Lady Clarke ruling and government ministers believe planned developments should be allowed to go ahead without Ofgem's backing.
If the SNP wins in the upcoming 2014 referendum, it is likely permission for more wind farms will be granted, as restrictions and licences will be relaxed to encourage further construction in the sector.
By Chris Stevenson