Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson and SNP Sutherland Councillor George Farlow have questioned a proposal from the Liberal Democrats Council leaders to centralise community benefit derived from windfarms.
The idea proposed by Council leader Lib Dem Leader Michael Foxley would see a Pan-Highland Community Benefit Fund which would be distributed centrally from Council HQ in Inverness.
Mr Gibson and Mr Farlow said that the idea raises a lot of questions and risks.
Mr Gibson said...
"I am uneasy about the proposal, it seem that in the future that decisions on who gets the benefit from wind farm money will be decided centrally in Inverness. The Highlands is too large and diverse a place for that to happen. Local decisions taken from the communities where these windfarms are cited has to be the democratic action."
"I too am unsure how such a scheme would differentiate between private land owners and community land owners. Does the plan say that family investments of a few turbines on their land will have to put money to Inverness?"
"Areas such as Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire house a large number of windfarms and some communities such as Watten have seen the monetary potential that they offer by purchasing a turbine. I see no reason why communities where wind turbines are situated, should not benefit completely from them. It would seem unfair if the Highland Council came in and took a vast chunk of that money away to Inverness to distribute it somewhere else. How will provision be made to tap the wealth of offshore renewable potential for coastal communities? The proposals of Highland Council leaders are so far holed below the waterline."
Cllr Farlow said…
"Windfarms are contentious enough but community benefit is something that is mostly welcomed by those that live nearby. The proposal as it stands places a question mark over that benefit and obviously Highland Council Administration fails to understand "community". There should be a way for the LibDem led Council to deliver benefit without splitting communities, for example by doubling the size of benefit from the energy companies. Into the bargain Highland Council already gains millions of pounds in business rates from existing windfarms and from all future ones. They haven't thought this through and need to consult more."