WORLD EXCLUSIVE by KATIE LAING
Local communities in the Isle of Lewis are reeling from the news that the
mostly-nuclear state-owned French nuclear giant EDF Energy is planning to
install the highest onshore wind farms in the UK in their two wind projects
on the Outer Hebrides island.
The local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, has – rightly – a huge role
to play in managing renewables development in the Hebrides.
But many residents across the Hebridean community have been intrigued by
the numerous apparently coincidental connections that exist between the
council leaders (past and present) and the big wind turbine parc developers
in general, and EDF in particular. For instance:
The son of the current leader of the Western Isles / Comhairle nan Eilean
Siar council leader is employed by EDF.
The son of the previous Western Isles / Comhairle nan Eilean Siar council
leader is currently employed by EDF.
While he did not work for EDF when his Dad was in power, he was working on
a separate island project for another big wind developer at that time.
There are currently three big corporate wind farms with planning approval
for the Isle of Lewis.
Two of these belong to EDF and these will be the location for the giant
turbines, which will be as tall as the 203m-high pillars on the new
Queensferry Forth Road Bridge between Edinburgh and northern Scotland –
while the third belongs to Riverstone -Forsa.
EDF, along with its new partner Wood Group (the Aberdeen-based oil-to-green
energy conglomerate which acquired the rival Amec-Foster-Wheeler North Sea
oil services contractor last year), are now linked as partners in Lewis
Wind Power Ltd for their two projects on the island.
EDF / Wood Group have planning for 81 turbines altogether – 45 of them for
their Uisenis Wind Farm and 36 for the Stornoway Wind Farm.
The Queensferry Crossing over the Forth estuary; at 203m in height, it is
the same height as the wind turbine towers which EDF wants to build on Isle
of Lews it is the tallest bridge in the UK.
Both projects are controversial in their own way: – Uisenis (because it
would be sited close to a National Scenic Area) and Stornoway because it is
opposed by the crofters who want to go ahead with their own schemes and who
are currently fighting the French nuclear giant EDF in the Scottish Land Court.
The Stornoway project is on land belonging to the oldest and biggest
community landowner in Scotland, the Stornoway Trust – which was created in
1923 when the British imperial magnate Lord Leverhulme, then owner of the
island of Lewis, gifted the parish of Stornoway to the local community.
EDF’s hold on the island of Lewis began with the Stornoway Trust, which
gave it the lease to the land for its renewables developments.
This lease is for 70 years but the decision was not taken by the people
living in the Trust area – but by the factor (property agent) of the
Stornoway Trust and a couple of Trustees.
But the curious coincidences get even more curious.
There is a close relationship between Stornoway Trust and Western Isles
Council / Comhairle nan Eilean Siar as two current Stornoway Trust trustees
are also local authority councilors – which many in the local community
regard as a manifest conflict of interest.
Many islanders are also disappointed and frustrated with the apparently
unquestioning support which Stornoway Trust and the Comhairle / Western
Isles Council has given to EDF and its fellow developers.
There are further curiously-coincidental links here as well, such as:
The current Western Isles Council leader is Roddie Mackay – whose son
Michael Mackay, an engineer, is employed by EDF.
Then there is the previous council leader, Angus Campbell. He stood down
last May, but his son, Alasdair Campbell, is now also working for EDF and
is directly on the LWP projects.
Alasdair Campbell joined the LWP team last year as a commercial manager but
has been involved in wind farms for years and was involved with the Tolsta
project, now being developed by the Riverstone – Forsa consortium.
Interestingly, while he was leader of Western Isles Council / Comhairle nan
Eilean Siar, Angus Campbell spoke against those calling for the Comhairle
to negotiate a greater community stake in these schemes – at one point
accusing one community wind farm developer of “working against the best
interests of the wider community and the local economy”.
There are also coincidental connections between the Stornoway Trust and the
The Commission is handling the official application from the crofters (the
Section 50b application under crofting law) to develop renewables on their
common grazings. The crofters’ Section 50b application – which directly
rivals LWP’s plans in terms of the turbine sites the crofters want – is
still a live and ongoing case before the Crofting Commission.
The Factor of the Stornoway Trust – Iain Maciver – has been a commissioner
on the Crofting Commission since May 2016.
In addition, the Western Isles / Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councillors who
are also Stornoway Trust Trustees are Donald Crichton and Calum Maclean.
As part of his council responsibilities, Donald Crichton is chairman of the
Western Isles /Comhairle’s Sustainable Development Committee and also has a
position on the Crofting Joint Consultative Committee, a subgroup of
Calum Maclean is also on the Stornoway Trust and was, until very recently,
its chairman. He has now been replaced as chairman by Norman Maciver – who
is a cousin of Iain Maciver, the Factor of the Stornoway Trust
Another Western Isles / Comhairle nan Eilean Siar councilor is John A
Maciver – who is a brother of Iain Maciver, the Factor of the Stornoway
Trust, and who also sits on the Crofting JCC.
A final coincidental connection in this spider’s web of links is the one
that exists between the convenor of Western Isles Council / Comhairle nan
Eilean Siar and one of the key influencers in the LWP wind farm
development. It is this:
The son of convenor Norman A. Macdonald is married to the daughter of Brian
Wilson (a former Labour MP and Brit-Govt Energy Minister).
As well as his former political career and past record as a nuclear-power
lobbyist, Wilson is also a former non-executive director of Amec Nuclear
and is currently an adviser to Wood Group – which took over its
Amec-Foster-Wheeler rival (above).
It is also interesting to note that Wilson is the founder – and former
editor – of the alternative community newspaper The West Highland Free
Press, which proudly proclaims under its masthead that it is for ‘An Tìr,
An Cànan, ’S na Daoine (which translates into English as ‘The Land, The
Language and The People’).
Calum Macdonald, former Western Isles MP and developer of Point and
Sandwick Trust’s Beinn Ghrideag renewable energy scheme, said:
“The size of the proposed new turbines being considered by EDF is simply
“These are the same size as the gigantic offshore turbines that are now
being built in the North Sea. They are out to sea for a good reason which
is that their enormous size is thought to make them unacceptable anywhere
onshore, far less near a town like Stornoway or near an iconic location
like Loch Seaforth.
“It is baffling that EDF are considering such a massive change of plan at
such a late stage, especially when they spent recent months lecturing local
crofters that it was far too late in the day to have their plans for
community turbines taken into account
KATIE LAING also writes the award-winning Hebrides Writer blog: