Fury over wind farm tax break calls

ONE of the Borders’ leading anti-wind farm campaigners has slammed calls to give renewable energy companies tax breaks to help build more turbines.

Professor Jack Ponton, a university emeritus professor of engineering who is leading the Save Lauderdale anti-wind farm campaign, was reacting to a call from one of Scotland’s leading property law specialists.

Alan Cook, from international law firm Pinsent Masons, says reducing stamp duty on land leases would help energy firms save hundreds of thousands of pounds and make Scotland a more desireable location in which to do business.

Government ministers have already flagged up their intention to reform Scotland’s tax regime, which Mr Cook believes could provide a rare chance to introduce green tax breaks.

He believes plans for a Scottish replacement for stamp duty on property transactions is a key opportunity for the Scottish Government to promote and support its own policy objectives on renewable energy.

But the suggestion has already angered some anti-wind farm campaigners. Although subsidies for wind farm developers are being reduced by the Westminster government, they can still earn millions of pounds from a project.

But Professor Ponton, says turbine firms need little further encouragement to invest in Scotland.

“Giving tax breaks to wind farm companies is a horrifying idea. These firms are already raking in massive subsidies, which end up on everyone’s electricity bills.

“Wind farm developers are already piling into places like the Borders,” said Professor Ponton, who has worked in the renewable energy field since the 1970s.

He warned: “For Scotland to meet Alex Salmond’s target of 100 per cent renewable energy by 2012, you 
would have to cover an area of 1,000 square kilometres in turbines – that’s an area equivalent to twice the combined size of greater Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

Councillor Nicholas Watson (Leaderdale and Melrose, BP), vice-chairman of the local authority’s planning committee, was also concerned to hear of the moves.

“Our national politicians need to be really careful here; green tax breaks sound great, but a big slice of our electricity bills already goes to subsidise the renewables industry,” he told TheSouthern this week.

“It’s high time politicians acknowledged that their posturing on renewables comes at colossal cost to the consumer, effectively a direct levy, not on taxpayers alone, but on every electricity bill payer in the country.

“This is not just about the windfarm debate; renewables policy should be driven by science not sentimentality, and public funds directed at research, and things that definitely help, like insulation.

“Legislation could also be revised to allow us to stop over-heating schools and other council buildings.”