Communities across Scotland are being “bribed” by windfarm developers, a leading anti-turbine campaigner has claimed.
Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser spoke out after it was revealed that £5 million from renewable schemes is being distributed each year to rural areas where turbine developments have gone ahead.
While accepting the cash can have a positive impact, Mr Fraser was dubious about the motives of the companies behind the “sweeteners”.
“There is no doubt that in some instances community benefit can be a welcome resource for some towns and villages, however what we are seeing is wind-turbine developers using community benefit as a bargaining chip or in some cases an outright bribe to ease the passage of turbine planning applications,” said Mr Fraser.
“Turbine developers have also failed to disclose the proportion of their profits that is used for community benefit, but it is likely to be a very low percentage.
“Furthermore, every penny of community benefit is coming directly out of the pockets of consumers across Scotland.
“Energy bills are rising faster than any other commodity and nearly 40% of Scottish residents are in fuel poverty and this is directly related to generous renewable energy subsidies.”
The figure however was a cause for celebration for WWF Scotland, whose director Lang Banks said: “It’s fantastic news that so many communities are already benefiting from Scotland’s rich renewable energy resource.
“If Scotland is to meet its 100% renewable ambition then it’s vital that wherever possible local communities are given the opportunity to benefit too.
“The benefits for individual projects can be considerable one Highland Perthshire venture received £100,000 and Joss Blamire, senior policy manager for Scottish Renewables, said the £5m figure can only increase in the coming years.
“We believe this figure will be much higher as we encourage every developer to sign up their schemes and as new schemes become operational,” he said.
“It’s hard to imagine any other industry being able to offer anywhere near this kind of commitment to local communities.
“Community benefit isn’t just a financial transaction, it can be provided through a variety of means. In some cases the relationship between developer and community goes even further into commercial joint ventures and even complete community ownership.”
Mr Blamire denied that the financial benefits amounted to bribery saying:
“These packages are totally voluntary and are not taken into consideration when local authorities are making decisions on an individual planning application.”