War of words blows up over re­new­able en­ergy plans in Lewis

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THE leader of Western Isles Coun­cil has crit­i­cised a for­mer MP’s com­ments re­gard­ing pro­pos­als for re­new­able en­ergy projects in Lewis.

Calum MacDon­ald, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Point and Sand­wick Power, has called for greatly in­creased com­mu­nity in­volve­ment in the pro­posed Lewis Wind­power projects.

The move fol­lows a visit by the UK Sec­re­tary of State for Busi­ness and En­ergy, Greg Clark MP, to Stornoway on April 10.

Mr MacDon­ald, a for­mer MP for the Western Isles, was in­vited by Mr Clark to at­tend the Scot­tish Is­lands Re­new­able De­liv­ery Fo­rum meet­ing at the Caber­feidh Ho­tel.

Af­ter­wards he said: ‘ From the start of the meet­ing, Greg Clark made clear his pri­mary in­ter­est was the de­gree of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment, own­er­ship and ben­e­fit in the three is­land projects, and that max­imis­ing the com­mu­nity role was the best hope, in­deed the only hope, of get­ting any of the in­ter- con­nec­tor projects funded.’

Mr MacDon­ald claimed the Western Isles has the weak­est com­mu­nity in­volve­ment of all three projects cur­rently pro­posed, say­ing: ‘Both the coun­cil and Lewis Wind­power must quickly re­vise their plans. Com­mu­nity own­er­ship and con­trol has to be at the front and cen­tre of the in­ter- con­nec­tor case.

‘That is why I am call­ing on the new coun­cil, which is to be elected in May, to im­me­di­ately sit down with Lewis Wind­power and to re-en­gi­neer its pro­ject so that the com­mu­nity stake is in­creased to at least 50 per cent in line with Shet­land, guar­an­teed by le­gal agree­ments which can­not be re­neged on in the fu­ture.

‘There will be a very short win­dow of op­por­tu­nity be­fore the gov­ern­ment makes its fi­nal de­ci­sion and we must do ev­ery­thing to make our case as at­trac­tive and com­pelling as pos­si­ble.’

An­gus Camp­bell, leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, de­scribed Mr MacDon­ald’s com­ments as dis­ap­point­ing and said Point and Sand­wick Power seems solely in­ter­ested in its own de­vel­op­ment at the ex­pense of other re­new­able en­ergy de­vel­op­ments in the Western Isles, adding: ‘The comhairle be­lieves it is im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity to be able to share in the own­er­ship of largescale re­new­ables but an ap­pro­pri­ate bal­ance has to be achieved be­tween risk and re­ward.

‘A huge op­por­tu­nity still ex­ists for the de­vel­op­ment of a re­new­ables in­dus­try in the Outer He­brides. The win­dow of op­por­tu­nity for achiev­ing that is nar­row and there is much lo­cal agree­ment as to the best ap­proach.’

In re­sponse to these com­ments, Mr MacDon­ald said: ‘Sadly, this speaks vol­umes for the be­grudg­ing at­ti­tude of the coun­cil lead­er­ship to the com­mu­nity en­ergy sec­tor, de­spite the fact com­mu­nity wind farms are al­ready in­vest­ing £2 mil­lion a year from the Butt to Barra, twice the com­mu­nity ben­e­fit that is be­ing promised from the large Stornoway wind farm.’

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