Democracy in action?

by backpackingbongos

Just a quick rant and then I am going to bed.

I recently did a post about a walk across the Flow Country to Loch Strathy bothy, one of the highlights of my trip to the far north.  You can read that post here if you missed it.

I am therefore rather dismayed to find that the Strathy North Wind Farm has been given the go ahead despite local opposition.  A couple of articles here:

http://www.scotsman.com/news/minister_approves_opposed_wind_farm_1_1978814

http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/casework/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-264548

What really annoyed me was this sentence in the first article:

‘Energy minister Fergus Ewing approved the application from SSE Renewables, despite overwhelming opposition to the plan. Of the 174 representations received from members of the public, 166 were against the project and just eight were in support’.

So who are politicians there to represent?  Is there any point in making your voice heard?

Petitions are probably a complete waste of time, however they only take a few seconds to complete.  Another one for you here.

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23 Comments to “Democracy in action?”

  1. Elective dictatorship. Or in the case of Italy, just dictatorship. Will the people rise and rebel?

  2. No, Robin, the people will go shopping.

    Mr Fleming says that:

    “In consenting this application I have put in place a series of conditions to protect the outstanding natural habitats and landscapes and local communities.”

    But while Mr F is big on sentences full of the faux-legalese beloved of our elected misrepresenters, he’s actually quite short on what the ‘series of conditions’ actually are.

    These folk are obsessed with ‘targets’ – ‘gotta meet the target’. And in their twitchy compulsion to arrive at the target they’ll steamroller over any objections, as we see here – yet again.

  3. At this stage, there’s only one avenue left for us.

    Boycott this country. I’ve now stopped driving up the A9 (I live in the Lowlands).

    It’s EasyJet from now on. Scotland is going to be bankrupted by this lot very very soon indeed. And I have no wish to spend my money travelling a country blighted by useless structures. Thirty years ago we used to spend our holidays cycling around the Flow Country and we spent a few nights in the Strathy Inn. Magnificent part of the country. Some of the best scenery anywhere in the world.

    And the irony is that the SNP are selling the country down the river so that the English can meet their EU-imposed renewables target without losing Middle-England votes! Priceless. 1707 all over again.

  4. I’m not very clever when it comes to politics, I just know I repeatedly feel totally let down and disillusioned.

  5. There is a very simple reason why self-serving politicians ignore democracy – money. Either the politicians, a member of their family or someone in their “old pals network” has a commercial interest. Just before the big push towards using wind power was announced by Labour this guy “Nigel Doughty, a venture capitalist gave Labour £250,000 after a dinner with Tony Blair”. Nigel Doughty owned LM Glasfiber which was said to be the worlds biggest wind turbine manufacturer. Source – Sunday times 22/05/05.

    There are plenty other examples of such activities from all political parties doing this in a wide range of industries from health care, road building and finance etc.

    Sadly there are levels of democracy and it is being eroded throughout the world daily. Peaceful protest is nearly always ignored or met with violence by the governments. When you see peaceful protesters being beaten up and pepper sprayed by police in America because the government wants them removed on “Health and Safety” grounds you realise that a similar fate awaits our own protesters here. Unfortunately wind turbines in wild places barely register on a lot of people’s radar and we need to keep shouting.

    I know you are frustrated and wonder if petitions are a waste of time. They are not and we need to keep up the pressure, history will show these individuals for what they are as a result.

    As for democracy, the UK is no different to any other country across the world, the ultra rich are running the show, until they suffer there will not be any change at all. Where the tipping point will be here I don’t know, but I fear if people do rebel its won’t be peacefully.

  6. I have to admit to being a bit ambivalent about this one… the site where the wind farm is going to be is currently plantation woodland, so all they’re really doing is replacing one type of farming for another, really.

    However, as the impacts of wind farms on wildlife is still not completely understood, putting it right in the middle of an important bird breeding area (the flow country is probably the best place in the UK for breeding Black-throated Diver and Red-throated Diver) does seem a bit reckless.
    And yes, there is the visual impact, too (though I’m one of the few who actually likes the look of wind farms)

    One thing I do agree on, though, is that the wishes of the people should be taken into account more. When the objectors carry almost 9/10 of the weight of the argument, then surely that’s something that needs to have significant weighting.

    More importantly, the fact that SNH opposed the plans should have been all they needed. What is the point in having a Government funded nature conservation body if the government then chooses to ignore their advice?

    • llendorin – How can you compare the construction of a so called wind farm with trees even if they are conifer. Trees are organic, they grow and die and despite the misinformation about such forestry support a lot of wildlife. I have just been to a study presentation about this type of forestry (as well as mixed forestry) and their value as a carbon sink alone takes them way beyond anything a turbine can save. Ask yourself – will a turbine even cover its own carbon footprint. If you consider getting the materials out of the ground, transport of base materials and the making of all of the components from places across the world and then the actual construction of them which includes massive amounts of concrete, roads etc. Even accepting the mechanisation of forestry (again for profit as opposed to need) where are the similarities?

      I have two turbines three fields away from my home and I have done a lot of research into this industry, I still cannot see how covering our landscape with these things will make any difference to the continued destruction of our world for commercial gain. Destroying one part of our natural world simply to protect another is madness we cannot build our way out of this we need to use less.

  7. Llendorin, true, there’s plantation woodland there, but I’m not really sure how that makes it any less of crime against nature (I’ve heard the same argument being made about Griffin and other sites of that kind).

    Plantation woodland was a tax scam that made a lot of landowners a lot of money back in the 1970s and 1980s.

    It left a legacy of environmental vandalism that has done very serious damage to peatlands.

    Now we have another tax scam, namely wind farms, and I don’t really follow how that makes it any better.

    The difference between the two things is that although at very great cost we *can* replant former plantation woodland with native trees and try and regenerate the land over the next 200 years or so.

    With turbines, there is no going back. Once you dump thousands of tonnes of concrete and dirt on peatlands, it will never be taken away. Maybe one day the turbines will go, but it is simply unthinkable they would ever remove the concrete bases and the thousands of miles of 7-metre wide dirt tracks.

    Incidentally, you may like the look of wind farms, but forgive me, have you ever been to seen one from close-by and witness at first hand the environmental damage they do to the land? It’s not just visual impact, it’s the fact that we are giving licence to heavy machinery to trample over a very delicate environment. (and then folks get upset at Jeremy Clarkson driving a 4×4 on top of a hill near Ben Hope!)

    I agree with your other points of course, so the above is said in a constructive spirit.

    • Plantation woodland as a whole has little to no biodiversity value (nothing grows underneath closely packed sitka spruce and the trees themselves offer little in terms of food or habitat for birds or invertebrates), so the wind farm wouldn’t negatively impact on the biodiversity of that one spot… if purely discussing the physical aspects of it. As I mentioned earlier, though, there’s very little understanding of the effects the blades, turbines, etc have on the wildlife, so I simply don’t know what the overall effect would be.

      The impacts of the machinery installing the turbine is definitely not something to be underestimated, though.

      As for whether I’ve seen one up close – yes, I have. When I was studying at college, we visited a couple of wind farms in Aberdeenshire, with a view to understanding the environmental impact they have (kind of a pluses vs minuses exercise, really, taking into account the damage caused by the installation and maintenance compared with the clean energy generation produced – not surprisingly, most people have different opinions on that, too) It doesn’t actually take very long at all for the ground to recover underneath the wind farms (where they are allowed to – and that’s the biggest problem, the access routes to them and how often they are used), although that depends on the type of ground. I agree, peatlands, once gone, can’t be replaced. I’ve seen plenty of signs of wildlife living and breeding under wind farms, so there is certainly some value (when compared to plantation woodland)

      If I’m completely honest, my personal view on where wind farms should go is simple… offshore wind farms are without doubt the best option, both in terms of biodiversity value and impact on communities, etc. By building wind farms in an area of coast, you prevent trawling, dredging, etc, so the marine habitat underneath it actually gets a chance to recover, because big fishing boats can’t enter. It’s a win-win situation.

      To be honest, this is one of those topics that can be debated for months without any definite conclusion.

      As I mentioned earlier, my biggest issue with pretty much everything affecting the environment in Scotland is the government’s ability to completely ignore the advice given by their own advisers (SNH)

  8. llendorin
    Quote
    “Plantation woodland as a whole has little to no biodiversity value (nothing grows underneath closely packed sitka spruce and the trees themselves offer little in terms of food or habitat for birds or invertebrates)” End Quote

    This is simply not accurate, especially nowadays. When many of these places are replanted they will end up as mixed woodland, which is what they were postglacial anyway. Try visiting Kielder Forest, Hamsterley Forest, Grizedale Forest etc etc. They are nothing like they were 50 years ago because they have been well managed.

    As for wildlife again your comments are inaccurate, well-managed forests are no longer packed together with barren ground. Conifer habitat is very biodiverse if managed correctly. Some forests I agree are badly managed but it is the very same people who benefited from the money making scam for forestry years ago that are not managing them correctly today. They took the money and ran and are simply doing the same again with wind energy. Our natural world is not safe in the hands of these people.

    • mixed forests, well managed forests – I agree, those do have biodiversity value. The Forestry Commission’s switch to mixed woodland, with better spacing between trees to allow light and growth through can only be applauded.

      However… the woodland in question is none of that. It’s pure plantation woodland.

      • I appreciate it is currently pure plantation but it will not always be that way. Even if no one ever touched it it would be partly colonised by Birch where Spruce trees for example were blown down. These land owners were paid a lot of money to plant and should have been forced to manage the plantations. You said “all they’re really doing is replacing one type of farming for another, really”. Wind farms are words thought up by those with a commercial interest to make them sound environmentally friendly, they are not remotely similar to any sort of farming. Power generation is the industry – it is a world apart from farming.

  9. Llendorin, you’re right we can go on discussing until we’re blue in the face, but just a couple more points.

    Yes, it’s pure plantation woodland. But that doesn’t make a wind farm any more desirable. Proper re-planting with native species would have been the way forward. What Salmond is doing is missing a fantastic opportunity to make this country a pioneer in bio-diversity and regeneration. It could have become a case study in restoration. It’s not a basket case intent on self-destruction.

    Where you say that “It doesn’t actually take very long at all for the ground to recover underneath the wind farms”, well, the track on Beinn a’ Bhuiridh that was filled in by the NTS a few years back. Last time I was there, there wasn’t much evidence of re-growth, and that was just a bulldozed track, they hadn’t quarried the hillside and dumped rocks and deep soil on top of the peat like they do for the access tracks. Besides, the impact of the concrete seeping into the water table over time is something no-one seems to have bothered studying. So I’m not sure where you saw quick recovery around wind farms, maybe in lowlands on the East Coast, but up near Strathy the climate is so harsh that I doubt there’d be a quick recovery if and when the turbines are removed. Truth is, those areas are gone for good.

    As for wildlife settling around wind farms, I do recall a study by the Scottish Government a couple of years ago establishing there was significant displacement of bird nesting around wind farms (good for them, of course!), so again it doesn’t seem as if it’s all fine and dandy (but of course I’m mindful of the fact that by and large you oppose the Strathy North wind farm and sided with SNH).

    Thing is, if they start touching that kind of location, nothing is safe any more up here. Check the map, they are encroaching more and more towards the West. There will be very few pockets free of turbines once these guys are done with it.

    And you know, we are going to get *both* off-shore and on-shore. The Moray Firth will have a forest of turbines going up, as you might have read (200 or so) and just about the same number are going up around the Firth of Forth and then around Tiree.

  10. Looks like just the start: http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/Strathy-attracts-wind-farm-developers-20092011.htm

    Once one wind “farm” is established, how can anyone object to a few more?

    • That is the big problem. These developments are usually sold on their own ‘minimum’ impact. An application was made for a single turbine near where I live, reading the application it became apparent that it was one of THIRTY EIGHT aplications within a 30km range- and that doesn’t include those already installed!

  11. Remember, Salmond and Swinney said it quite clearly back in the summer: they’re out to “re-industrialise” the Highlands.
    I’ve got a week’s holiday booked up in Torridon at Christmas. That’s the last money the Highlands will ever see from me. If they want to “regenerate” their economy by milking the subsidies and destroying the country in the process, fine. They already get my taxes and I can’t do anything about that. I can take my holiday and free time money abroad though. I’m also boycotting any outdoor company based in the UK. Not a penny of my holiday/hobby money will be spent in Scotland or the UK. Won’t make a difference, but short of starting a ‘Occupy the Moors’ movement (which won’t have any sympathy at all from the usual suspects) there ain’t much else I can do to vent my anger.

  12. Sad news indeed James – wish I could say I was surprised. I agree with an earlier comment. I am a little disheartened at whether these petitions work but we have to try. I still harbour hope that the voices are getting louder and that rare breed – a politician with a conscience – will listen and take action

    If there was even the most minimal evidence that these wind-farms contributed sigificantly to the generation of power, provided cheaper energy or that their development was purely focused on their green credentials I would be more sympathetic to their deployment on a case by case basis. However they are an unreliable source of energy, costs of delivery are higher and worst of all the drive for this is pure greed. Our so-called politicians should feel ashamed of what they are doing to the landscape in our name

    Simple fact, these wild areas are ripe for exploitation because they lack the one thing that would at least add a voice of caution any proposals – voters!

    Robin has hit the nail on the head – once they start, precedence will be set.

    • I made the suggestion on an internet forum that turbines should be erected on some spare ground in Glasgow, Sighthill flats have just come down and left a nice site. Plus a few turbines in Edinburgh along Salisbury Crags. Put the turbines where the demand is. You won’t be surprised to find these proposals were shouted down for being “crazy” and that they wouldn’t be able to connect into the grid! There are too many people in the cities who would object, which is why the highlands are an easy target.

  13. Thanks everyone for your comments, it is definately a subject that arouses passion and debate. Unfortunately this passion and debate only comes from a tiny part of the population, I feel that most are probably more interested in who will win X factor? It just makes me feel very sad that our elected representatives only appear to exist to line their own grubby pockets and serve the interests of those who are already rich and powerful.

  14. I can understand people wanting to boycott Scotland or the Highlands, but that is not going to hurt those who are making money from this industrialisation of the wild lands. Who owns this landscape (to coin Norman MacCaig’s poem that I quoted in my last blog post) and who is making money here? Not me and my family who live and work here in the Highlands – I, and 3 other family members who, incidentally, work in tourism/hospitality trade, and who’s jobs WILL be cut if tourist numbers fall. We’ll be struggling to continue to live here without employment, while those responsible for this destruction of our landscape will pocket the money as they watch over their land from afar.

    Yes, the vast majority of Highland estates are still owned by absentee landlords. A survey in 2003 studied 218 estates which covered 4.5 million acres of the Highlands and Islands. It found that two thirds of lairds were absentee landowners. These landlords will still continue to turn up for the couple of weeks sport – hunting, stalking fishing – then clear off out again.

    Meanwhile us non-landowners have to live next door to the wind farms – despite fighting to prevent our land being desecrated in this manner. And I mean next door, as I’m within viewing distance of the proposed Drum Ba development.

  15. democracy?

    there’s probably more of that on X factor!

    The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. Did I get that the right way round? I’m losing track.

  16. It’s a pity a real statement of some sort can’t be made that will make the numpties we have in place of proper politicians sit up and take notice.

    A mass witholding of taxes might do something, but PAYE puts paid to that for most of us. 😦

  17. Don’t be too pessimistic. An application was made for a windfarm at Blackhill, near Airdrie. Initial objections saw four turbines struck from the plan. Further objections were made and recently the whole application was withdrawn.
    Sadly within a week an application was put in at another nearby location for another eight turbines. The fight goes on!

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