LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BLOWING THE MYTHS AWAY
We believe that your readers deserve to know the truth about wind power, so have set out some popular myths and given the facts which show the actuality.
Myth 1: Onshore wind is the UK’s cheapest form of new power generation, so we should use it to keep people’s electricity bills low.
It’s not cheap for consumers because we subsidise wind farm developers through our utility bills, and taxpayers pick up the tab for grid expansion and back-up power.
Myth 2: Scotland has abundant wind – about 25% of Europe’s wind resources.
There is little point in having 25% of something that no one will pay for – unlike oil companies which pay royalties to the government, wind companies claim subsidies.
Myth 3: Wind power helps Scotland to meet its targets for carbon emissions and renewable electricity generation.
We all want to save the planet, but we need to be realistic. Scotland’s CO2 emissions are barely 0.15% of the world total, so even eliminating them will have a minute impact. Meantime, the fixation on producing ever more electricity from wind comes at a very high price – it makes our businesses less competitive, puts jobs at risk and tips more people into fuel poverty.
Myth 4: Scotland reaps huge financial benefits from investment and jobs created by the economic activity of wind farms.
Only a very small proportion of each wind farm’s total “investment” benefits Scotland. The turbine (the most expensive bit) is invariably imported, the blades are nearly all imported, and the pillars and steel work are often imported. Most jobs in the renewables industry are in planning and installing new facilities. Once a wind farm is operational, what little maintenance it requires tends to be carried out by people with skills and experience from outwith the area. The £millions invested by developers with one hand looks much less impressive when they use the other to rake in £millions of subsidies and constraint payments (when turbines have to be shut down to avoid overloading the grid).
Myth 5: Most people (71%) think wind power/renewable energy is great (Public Attitudes Tracking Survey), so there is no problem building more wind farms.
Most people don’t live near huge, industrial-scale wind turbines and so have little idea of how devastating they can be to those who do, or the impact such massive structures can have on the value of people’s property, which may represent most of a family’s life savings. Flicker and noise from nearby wind farms can, literally, destroy peoples’ lives. The hundreds of thousands of tonnes of concrete and hardcore trucked into our countryside to support and connect wind turbines has a huge carbon footprint, degrades the environment and is likely to remain forever.
Myth 6: Wind is important in Scotland’s energy mix, so we should be increasing wind generation and decreasing our reliance on other forms of power.
When the wind is blowing, wind can indeed substitute for other energy sources, but there are many times when there is not enough – or even no wind – to generate sufficient electricity to meet demand. So we still need the same amount of conventional – hydro, coal, gas, nuclear – generating capacity on stand-by.
Myth 7: Wind provides Scotland with energy security because the wind is always there, unlike oil and gas, much of which comes from the most unstable parts of the world.
The wind does not always blow – or blow hard enough, and neither can we store more than a fraction of any surplus wind power. So, to keep the lights on, we still need many of our conventional power stations. Fortunately, much of our gas now comes from Norway – not known for its instability.
Myth 8: Scotland will make money by exporting surplus electricity to England and beyond, maintaining its status as an energy-exporting country.
The Green Dream. Sadly, the only people who make money out of wind energy in Scotland are those companies, often foreign, building or operating wind turbines. Denmark may have the largest proportion of wind power in Europe, but it has the highest electricity prices – and it loses money. Why? Because when the wind is blowing in Denmark, it is almost always blowing in neighbouring Sweden and Germany, so they are not prepared to pay much for Denmark’s surplus power. When Denmark has little or no wind, it has to import expensive electricity from further away. Electricity is much more expensive to move long distances than oil or gas – the Beauly-Denny power line cost £600m, twice the cost of a supertanker, yet has just a 100th of a tanker’s power-carrying capacity.
Myth 9: Wind power is better than nuclear as a low-carbon electricity source.
Wind power is intermittent, whereas nuclear power is constant. In the Borders, we have lived – many of us never even thinking about it – with Torness on our doorstep for 30 years. There have been no fatalities at those nuclear plants which meet western standards for design and operation, and it is the only low-carbon source of dependable power generation as it emits no CO2.
Myth 10: Local communities can participate in community-led schemes, or receive money from nearby wind farms, which benefits the people closest to wind farms.
Major wind farm developments almost always divide rather than benefit communities, which are often spread over a wide geographical area. The closer people live to a wind farm, the more likely their homes and businesses may be seriously affected by turbine noise and visual impact, while people living further away, but part of the same rural community, may be completely unaffected. Relationships within and between communities may be poisoned for years over relatively small sums of money – even if the development never gains planning consent.
(vice-chair, Borders Network of Conservation Groups)
WARDENS HAVE FAILED TO DETER
The pilot appointment of wardens to deal with dog fouling in this region has been a complete failure.
Having given a presentation to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) prior to the launch of the pilot contract last year, I feel able – and indeed compelled – to comment on the ‘mission’ so far.
The principal reason for the appointment of wardens was to address the issue of dog fouling across the Borders in response to an increasing number of well-justified complaints. It was, from the outset, to be the main focus of their attention.
Two questions that require answers are: What have the wardens been doing for the past nine months? How closely has their deployment and performance been monitored and supervised?
Thanks to the Freedom of Information (FoI) facility, the first question can be answered courtesy of SBC.
The fruits of the wardens’ labour across the Borders can be summarised, in respect of fixed penalty tickets issued between 31/05/16 and 31/12/16 – Tweeddale – cigarette ends, 3; littering, 2; dog fouling, 1; Eildon – 30, 4, 2; Berwickshire – 12, 0, 0; Cheviot, Teviot and Liddesdale – 26, 1, 1.
Nine-month total – 71, 7, 4. It is not known how many fixed penalty tickets remain unpaid.
It should have been obvious from the outset that the so-called “cost neutral” scheme organised by the council whereby the contractor is remunerated directly and solely by retaining the income from tickets issued would result in activity geared to yielding the easiest financial return (dropped cigarette ends). I do not recall there ever being an ongoing public outcry demanding action regarding this aspect of littering.
While the scheme was described as being “cost neutral” to the council, an article last month in one of your sister titles, the Hawick News, said it can cost the local authority around £1,000 to recover an unpaid fine of just £80. I had previously been advised, in response to a FoI inquiry to the council, that the contractor was responsible for the collection of fines and recovery of unpaid fines.
Another depressing statistic gleaned from a recent FoI request is that, compared directly with the same period in 2015, dog fouling complaints across the region increased from 213 to 347 between 31/05/16 and 31/12/16 – an increase of 61%. It cannot therefore be suggested that the presence of wardens has in any way had a deterrent effect.
Tackling the scourge of dog fouling is not easy and requires an organised, committed and highly-proactive approach. It would appear from these results that the current pilot scheme has none of these requirements in place.
However, what is abundantly clear from the figures is that (unsurprisingly) the contractor’s priorities are focused on income generation and not the allotted task of detecting and reducing the offence of dog fouling, or even “standard” littering offences.
There is a saying that “you get what you pay for”, and it therefore follows that if you pay nothing you can expect nothing back.
WHY WESTMINSTER IS KEEN TO KEEP US
My assertion that supporters of Scottish independence rejected fearmongering and based their hope for the future on the many assets which Scotland already enjoys was recently challenged in your letters pages.
It was also suggested that people who voted Yes in 2014 did so with their heart rather than their head.
While I have an emotional connection with Scotland, I am not prepared to gamble the future of our children and grandchildren on a mere whim. It was also helpful to have the ability to see beyond ephemeral events such as a rise or fall in employment rates, changes in bank interests, pot-holed roads etc., and view a long-term future for Scotland.
At just over five million, Scotland’s population is only 8.3% of the UK total. Yet Scotland has 32% of the land area, 61% of the sea area, 90% of surface fresh water, 65% of natural gas and 96.5% of crude oil production. We have 62% of timber production from 46% of the total forest area. We have 92% of hydroelectric and 40% wind, wave and solar energy production. Fish landings from Scottish waters are 55%, beef production is 30%, lamb 20% and dairy 10%. Our cereal holdings are 15% and potato 20%.
All for a population of only 8.3% – where does all that excess go? Add to this cornucopia a highly-educated population with some of the top universities in the world, an adaptive and motivated workforce, an established efficient administrative system, great infrastructure, highly-profitable exports, and you have a recipe which can only lead to success. That success will be evident when Scotland has total control of the economy.
So I have a question for the Unionists who write doom-laden letters to you about how helpless and useless Scotland is.
If this country of ours is such a basketcase, why is Westminster determined that Scotland will never be independent?
SAVING MILLIONS BY LEAVING CAP
After Germany, which contributes £14bn euros a year, Britain is the EU’s biggest paymaster, paying £12bn euros annually, double that of France.
The biggest expenditure of the EU is on CAP, the much-criticised Common Agricultural Policy which takes 40% of its budget.
Only 40% of Britain’s contribution to CAP is returned to our farmers, most through the area payment scheme. The largest landowners receive most cash. Sir James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner manufacturer, gets £1.4m a year for farming in Lincolnshire, while the Parker family (no relation, I am sure, of Scottish Borders Council leader David Parker!) receives £1.1m. Meanwhile, small farms receive little and struggle to survive.
Fraud has also been a problem with CAP. Greek farmers declared scrub and semi-desert as pasture, while a Spanish farmer received payments for arable land which was actually a motocross track. Subsidies flowed unchecked.
Britain receives about £2.5bn from CAP paid to our farmers of the £6.2bn we pay in, so when we leave the EU the UK government could easily continue to pay or increase farm support in a better way.
Prime Minister Theresa May has already guaranteed CAP payments to 2020, but after that surely the UK should look at farm subsidies afresh. We require to look anew at how the land is used. Of course we need to produce as much high-quality food as possible, but Brexit is a tremendous opportunity to make changes to land use backed by the billions of savings the UK will make by leaving CAP.
Woodland planning would be one thing which could be financially supported, for example. Lauderdale and some other parts of the Borders would benefit from tree-planting schemes on hillsides, rural roadsides, farms and around villages. We need wood for economic use. But trees also provide shelter, improve biodiversity, temporise rainstorms, take in CO2 and enhance the environment.
BREED’S LONG HISTORY
All the Dandie Dinmonts in the world today do not ultimately go back to ‘Old Ginger’ (Southern, February 16) – they go much further back to ‘Nettle’ and ‘Old Pepper’.
Nettle was bred by James Davidson, alias Dandie Dinmont of Hindlee, Old Pepper by Allan’s of Northumberland, and both were owned by Francis Somner of West Morriston, his famous dog, ‘Shem’ a direct descendant, as shown in a published history of the breed (The Dandie Dinmont Terrier: It’s History and Characteristics by Charles Cook, 1885, which is free to download).
CANCER CHARITY’S COFFEE MORNING
I would like to thank everyone who attended our coffee morning in the Congregational Church Hall, helping us to raise £266.90. The committee would also like to thank Mrs Underhill for donating the cost of hiring the hall to us again this year.
(secretary, Hawick committee, Macmillan Cancer Support)