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Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Wind farm decision goes against charity - but the fight’s still on

This news post is over 6 years old

​Court ruling goes against conservationists - but they vow to battle on

A charity looks to have lost its campaign to block a massive wind farm development.

Energy giant SSE wants to create the 67 turbine Stronelairg project on land close to its Glendoe hydro electric scheme near Fort Augustus.

Last year, conservation charity the John Muir Trust (JMT) secured a judicial review of the Scottish Government's decision approving the project.

However, judges have now upheld an appeal by the government and SSE, clearing the way for the wind farm to go ahead.

JMT said it was disappointed by the decision – but will explore all legal options.

Chief executive Stuart Brooks said: “We took out this legal action reluctantly because of the sheer scale of the development proposed by SSE in an area of wild land, the potential ecological damage to a vast area of peatland and the breadth of opposition – which included Scottish Natural Heritage, the Cairngorms National Park Authority the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and three out of four local councillors. Objectors outnumbered supporters of the application by a margin of 15 to one.

“Lord Jones, in the initial judicial review, found in favour of the trust’s legal arguments that the Scottish Government had not followed the correct planning process. The Inner House judges have disagreed with that assessment. We are now taking further legal advice and considering options.

“We are grateful for all the support we have received from our members and the public, including over a thousand financial donations.”



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Noel Darlow
over 6 years ago
Unfortunately all the carriage returns seem to have been stripped out of that post...?
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Noel Darlow
over 6 years ago
Some things are just so massively, shamefully wrong it takes your breath away.Given the catastrophic impacts of climate change, objecting to onshore wind is one. It is astonishing to see a supposedly environmental charity attempting to oppose urgently-needed action to address the problem.What are the arguments against wind?Most common is the complaint about spoiled views. These might be dressed up in glowing prose about the character of a wild area, or the need to have a spiritual connection with wilderness (which I can go along with, up to a point) but what they're actually talking about are spoiled views.Given the scale and severity of climate impacts - some of them lasting millions of years - that is a *spectacularly* trivial response to make and we do not need to waste any time on it (although no doubt we will have to in future, again and again).So what are the actual, concrete environmental impacts which we need to consider?The big risk for any kind of development in the Scottish uplands is disruption to the peatland's hydrological systems. If a large volume of peat dries out, this portion of the bog will be lost and its carbon released to the atmosphere.The details will depend on a specific plan and the specific terrain in that locale but it is possible to build a wind farm with relatively minor and temporary ecological impacts.Excavations for turbine foundations and the construction of access roads will certainly cause some damage but these impact a very small percentage of the total volume of peat in the area as a whole.Complaints are often made about the possibility of turbine foundations being left behind after the wind farm is decommissioned but that is only a visual impact. Big lumps of rock in a post-glacial landscape strewn with big lumps of rock don't cause any concrete, environmental harm.Access roads again are a temporary visual impact (provided they don't drastically alter the peatland hydrology). In time - ie centuries - they will be recolonised by vegetation and no-one will know they were ever there.Modern airships provide an interesting alternative method of transport to remote areas but I'm not sure how the numbers work out for a large enough fleet capable of churning out new wind farms at the rate we need. They could at least be used for some projects.Bird life will be affected by wind turbines. Some species actually benefit from the cover provided from raptors but other, soaring birds will see an increased mortality and a reduction in the local population.However, a reduction in the numbers of some bird species in some areas cannot possibly compare to a global mass extinction which could result in the loss of over a quarter of the Earth's species. To allow that to happen would be an unthinkable act of vandalism.It should also be noted that UK peatlands themselves are threatened by climate change and therefore trying to save peatlands by objecting to wind farms makes no sense. It's a bit like letting the house burn down because you don't want the fire brigade to come and trample all over your lawn.The warming pulse which we have unleashed will last for over a hundred thousand years. From a human perspective, the biggest impact happens on the front of that curve with global food production taking a big hit and some truly horrific consequences of famine, mass migration, and armed conflict.Running a close second for anyone who feels anything about the natural world, will be the global loss of species. Many coral reefs may already be lost, for example.We know from the fossil record that, following a mass extinction, it takes many millions of years for biodiversity to be restored (Kirchner & Weil 2000). In other words, for all of the rest of human history those who come after us will be condemned to live in a relatively denuded world stripped of much of the rich diversity which we know today - and there won't be a thing they can do about it. It takes a very long time for rich, complex ecosystems to evolve.Once you truly understand the scale of the threat posed by climate change, then you will understand that there is no reasonable environmental argument which can be made against wind turbines. Pretty much anything you can think of will be a minor, short-term impact in comparison easily trumped by climate impacts which are many orders of magnitude more destructive and enduring.We have to cut our emissions hard and fast and we will have to make some small sacrifices in order to save as much of the natural world as we can - and to save as many people as we can. This is a real, pressing emergency. We don't have time to waste on facile arguments about spoiled views or environmental impacts viewed out of context.