Monday, 28 January 2008

The Lewis Windfarm and the Council

Following the announcement of an intended rejection of the proposed windfarm in North Lewis, an informal meeting took place on Saturday between 15 of the Comhairle's 31 councillors. A delegation was despatched to Edinburgh for talks with First Minister Alex Salmond. As I reported in an earlier post on this subject, the Comhairle was deeply concerned that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Western Isles' economy was being lost.

Mr Salmond is seen as the salvation of the Western Isles economy, bearing in mind his timely intervention in the planned golf course for the Balmedie estate in Aberdeenshire, which saved the day for that project. Whether he can salvage the Lewis Windfarm is less than clear. The major problem is formed by the Special Protected Areas, peatland in the centre of the island designated under EU law in 2000. Violation of this by the windfarm would expose the UK government to court action and a massive fine.

The Comhairle will also take its case to the EU, with the argument that the SPA designation were not intended to stop economic development. Of course they weren't. It is a case of embracing industries which do not interfere with the SPA, and it requires a bit more inventiveness than just the quick buck from a windfarm. And, let's face it, it's not much of a buck for the Islands, £6m per annum. Nice sum, but much more would be made by AMEC et al.

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