Demand for parliamentary statement on China planning row – Herald

 

Tom Gordon Scottish Political Editor

LABOUR are demanding an urgent Holyrood statement on the SNP government
taking control of a Chinese-backed planning application while Nicola
Sturgeon was in China.

The First Minister has come under fire after her ministers “called in” an
application related to a wind farm financed by China’s State Development
and Investment Corporation (SDIC).

The move, which means ministers will now have the final say on the proposal
rather than local councillors, came a day before Ms Sturgeon met the SDIC
in Beijing.

The proposal would see a substation built at the former Cockenzie power
plant in East Lothian to connect the Inch Cape Offshore wind farm to the
national grid.

East Lothian Council last month bought the site as part of an economic
redevelopment plan, and there are fears the wind farm substation could cost
the local community jobs.

Ministers have been accused of riding roughshod over local democracy –
councillors had not even considered the application – and of being too
eager to woo the Chinese authorities.

The planning application was made by Inch Cape Offshore Ltd, part of the
SDIC-subsidiary Red Rock Power, whose Edinburgh office Ms Sturgeon opened
in 2016.

The Scottish Government insist there is no link between the call-in, which
was set in motion by housing minister Kevin Stewart on April 4, and Ms
Sturgeon’s visit to China this week.

The government also said the issue was not discussed when the First
Minister met the SDIC on Tuesday, the day after the call-in was formally
executed.

It was only the tenth call-in in a decade made in advance of a decision by
a local authority.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “SNP ministers need to urgently explain this
disgraceful move to block local people from taking part in a planning
decision. This is just another power grab from a SNP government that treats
local democracy with disdain.

“In the same week Nicola Sturgeon met the SDIC, a planning application by
its subsidiary company was snatched out of the hands of East Lothian
Council so that her planning Minister could make the decision.

“Whether this is intentional or coincidental, it speaks volumes about a
government that only wants power for itself – not for local people and is
more interested in cosying up to Chinese investors than the rights of local
communities.”

Holyrood reconvenes on Monday, and the earliest an urgent question could be
answered in the chamber is Tuesday.

The Scottish Government has been asked for comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *