Wind farms cost SBC, but democracy pays real price

This week we reported on the spiralling costs faced by Scottish Borders Council when it comes to processing wind farm applications.

With the nationalist government at Holyrood keen to promote renewable sources of energy, planning officers at council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells are being deluged with applications from wind farm developers.

Currently there are nine applications pending a decision, with a number of others at different stages.

It would not be so bad if the hundreds of man hours consumed by dealing with these was adequately remunerated, but it is not.

Far from it. SBC can only charge up to a maximum of £15,000 per application, whereas local authority counterparts in England can charge up to 10 times that amount.

Local SNP MSP Christine Grahame, however, says the cost is simply the price that has to be paid to ensure everyone’s views are heard about proposed wind farm developments.

But this seems a contradictory claim when, after carrying out these consultations, councillors – as elected representatives of the Borders electorate – then see their decisions to turn down wind farm applications routinely overturned on appeal. Where is the democracy in that?

The truth seems to be that the SNP government is hell-bent on having as many wind farms as it can, regardless of the growing body of scientific and engineering opinion that says onshore schemes are not the way forward and come at too high a price in terms of landscape damage.

So is the reality of the situation actually that First Minister Alex Salmond and his fellow nationalists only really care about the views of the people of Scotland when they do not dissent from their own?

How well does that bode for the debate on the pros and cons of independence for our country?