A furious row has broken out over claims that the Borders has seen the largest increase in wind farm applications in Scotland.
Figures from the Scottish Conservatives, via a freedom of information request, shows bids from green energy firms have jumped from just 17 between 1999 and 2007, to 253 in the past five years – a rise of 1,388 per cent.
The Tories’ local MSP John Lamont put the incredible surge in renewable power bids down to the Scottish National Party’s “reckless” energy policies since it took control of Holyrood five years ago.
However, SNP South of Scotland member Paul Wheelhouse, who is also the Scottish Government’s minister for environment and climate change, has criticised Mr Lamont’s interpretation of the FoI response.
He told TheSouthern: “This is yet another example of lamentable standard from Mr Lamont and the Tories in an attempt to hunt for sensationalist headlines. John Lamont is comparing apples and pears and this adds little value to the debate on energy policy.
“There is no breakdown of the figures to establish between domestic turbines, single turbines on farms or larger scale community or developer-sponsored sites.
“The statistics say nothing about the size of turbines either, and he treats all applications as large-scale developments, which is just nonsense.
“Can John name all these hundreds of large scale wind farms that have been sought?
“The UK ConDem Government is responsible for energy policy across the whole of the UK in respect of tariffs and ROCs, they control the incentives and grid connection charges.
“I would remind John Lamont that the Scottish Borders Council, when controlled by the Conservatives, initiated the Borders Renewables Energy Agency to promote community and domestic wind turbines. Any fair minded person will see John Lamont’s analysis for what it is – a good example of rubbish in and rubbish out.
“I only wonder why John Lamont didn’t take an earlier start date, like 1908, to get more dramatic figures.”
However, Mr Lamont insists the figures prove the region is being targeted by renewable energy firms, citing a FoI report last month which showed Scottish Borders Council has spent £227,000 dealing with wind turbine bids since Alex Salmond became First Minister.
The Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP added: “These startling figures are yet more evidence of the damage being done by the SNP’s reckless energy policies.
“They have sent out a clear message that our countryside is fair game when it comes to siting wind farms and nowhere has this had more of an effect than here in the Borders.
“Our region has seen the largest increase in wind farm applications in the whole of Scotland since the SNP came to power. In many cases this has come despite local residents objecting to wind farms being sited near them. Many people believe we have reached a saturation point when it comes to building any more.”
Mr Lamont added: “Instead of this money being spent on improving services and infrastructure in the Borders, it is being sunk into dealing with this deluge of applications.
“We accept wind farms, if sensibly sited, have a role to play in Scotland’s energy sector.
“But ludicrous targets of producing 100 per cent energy from renewables are at best fanciful, and at worst costly and dangerous.
“Turbines are intermittent and unreliable, and the SNP’s obsession with them risk ruining our countryside and making our energy production industry the laughing stock of the world.”
In total, Scotland’s councils have dealt with 5,528 applications since 2007, with Aberdeenshire seeing the most with 1,078 and West Dunbartonshire the fewest with only four.