Wind farm protestars’ motives in doubt

Scotland’s first commercial wind farm will not be the last. But debate continues about another site, and as Conchita Pinto finds out, the campaigners may not be what they seem.

Environmental campaigners claim lobbyists for the nuclear industry are trying to torpedo plans for a wind farm at Soutra Hill. near Lauder. under the guise of an English-based organisation called Country Guardian.

Following the opening last week of Scotland‘s first commercial farm in Lanarkshire. the Scottish Borders Council is considering a submission by Renewable Energy Systems Ltd (RES). who want to harness the abundance of wind on Soutra Hill. near Lauder. The pr0posals. which require the erection of 3| turbines. each 200 ft high. have attracted criticism from several quarters.

Country Guardian have been vocal in their opposition. but advocates of the scheme believe their motives are suspect. In a letter sent from London to local papers. they made detailed criticisms of the proposals for Soutra Hill. They also accused wind developers of ‘having already destroyed large areas of the countryside in pursuit of profit.‘

Country Guardian is well known to Graham Steiner. energy campaigner with Friends Of The Earth Scotland (FOE). who said: ‘Sir Bernhard lngham, a paid advisor to the nuclear industry. is Country Guardian‘s vice-president. Their declared aim is to discredit the development of wind power on environmental grounds.

‘If its members care so much about the destruction of the countryside. why are they so conspicuously silent about other environmental threats. such as open-cast mining or Britain‘s disastrous road programme?‘ he asks.

Robert Woodward, vice-chairman of Country Guardian. admitted that it was a single issue campaign group. but defended the organisation‘s green credentials. ‘We believe in an overall reduction in the use of energy whatever its source.‘

He confirmed that lngham was vice-president. but insisted. ‘He has no influence over our policy. Country Guardian has no policy on nuclear energy.‘

However. even some advocates of alternative energy are anxious about the pace of development. Some local campaigners also fear developing the site to

feed the British national grid will destroy the landscape without benefiting the local community.

Others are concerned about the sudden interest shown in wind power and other renewables by large developers. Duncan Johnstone. who is involved in a West Lothian lowland crofting project. believes RES. a subsidiary of construction company McAlpine Ltd. is concerned less about global warming. than capitalising on vast commercial subsidies paid out by the government to investors in non-fossil fuels.

A move towards renewable resources has been the dream of environmentalists since the heady days of . the 60s. But now that it is materialising not everyone is happy. Johnstone says one advantage of sustainable technology is that it has the ability to decentralise energy distribution. Large windfarms which colonise vast areas of land to feed the national grid do not produce enough megawatts to make them viable. Small turbines which feed energy directly into the community are a more realistic option.‘

Campaign co-ordinator against the Soutra Hill proposals Dr Brian Moffat. an environmentalist and director of Soutra‘s famous medieval hospital-site. is also doubtful. ‘This project will not bring employment into the area once it is erected. and the turbines are all made abroad.‘ he said.

Tweed Horizons. the Borders-based centre for sustainable technology. agree that advances in wind

r ' < s m .57: \A J‘-

3 3' ,.l I 99." L3. u ..‘.: "g: __v . turbines: A blight or a blesslng? technology have been made by countries with a long-standing commitment to sustainable energy systems.

This is all the more reason for Scotland to act quickly. according to Friends Of The Earth. Steiner explains: ‘The govemrnent needs to wake up to the potential on its doorstep and seriously invest in the new technologies which would advance its own interest while benefiting the greater world conununnyf

FOE agree plans for wind farms must be sensitive to the environment and involve local people. However. they are still giving strong backing to the development of windpower in Scotland. ‘Our climate provides the best renewable energy resources for wave and wind power in Europe and with the right investment we could be the world leader in the new technologies.‘

However. the debate continues. l)r Moffat claims the glint front 3| permanently rotating blades would destroy the tranquillity bfthe landscape and threaten his research into medieval Scottish medical practices conducted at the site. ‘I am a life-long supporter of altemative energy.‘ he says. ‘but indiscriminate developments such as this. which cream off lucrative subsidies without contributing significantly to the problem of global warming will only discredit the whole movement.‘

And finally. . . Fringe for sale as hippy girl makes a hash of it

Umbrellas. Not the most obvious status symbol. but they are currently

New Zealand. The idea is not without merit. As

The girl‘s defence (once she had ceased giggling and consumed several

enjoying the sort of status normally attached to racehorses and private yachts on Wall Street number- crunchers compete to brandish the biggest brolly.

Jumbo varieties on the market include the Super Dome and El Grande which sound more like varieties of condom. Still cash is all and presumably the more accurate ‘Selfish eyepoker‘ or ‘Sad phallic substitute‘ wouldn’t exactly sell well.

Money was also key to the silly season story of the week. When an article in The Independent proposed that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe could be sold off. the Fringe Press Office‘s spoof response indicated they had already received three acceptable bids. including interest from Bath and

spray-painted human statues and roller-blading thespians vanish from their streets. Edinburgh residents in particular might be rather glad to see the back of the whole circus.

Then. proceeds from a sale could be used to finance a replacement. A popular choice might well be the Glastonbury rock festival. Farmer Michael Eavis is finding other interests and the people of Glastonbury have hardly a good word to say for Britain’s leading hippyfest.

Edinburgh could get it for. er. a song. '

As for Scotland‘s own rock festival. Edinburgh could always buy that too. and form a merger. ‘Glas-T—on the park‘. Or something.

Still on hippies, for sheer brass neck. the eighteen-year-old ‘hippy‘ who

Cannabis lam: Happy camper

camped in the middle of a cannabis plantation in Oxfordshire takes some beating. .

Her arrest, at the govemment- licensed farm came after police received a tip-off.

pizzas) was apparently that she ‘thought she was in clover‘. Another muttered comment about ‘super grass’ was clearly a bitter reference to the nark who spilled the beans.

There was plenty of hype this week over the exhuming from Melrose Abbey of a casket alleged to contain Robert The Bruce‘s bean. Less publicised were efforts in Govan to unearth a canister containing Tony Blair‘s commitment to Scottish self- determination.

The container was duly recovered. but when opened proved to be empty. Much disappointment all round and the story sank rapidly. As did the Labour Party‘s opinion poll rating this week. though the two are not thought to be connected. (Stephen Naysmith)

The List 6- 19 Sept 1996 5