Union: Pro­tect­ing birds is risk­ing wind­farm jobs B

Leader in swipe at the RSPB over failed bid to block ap­pli­ca­tion

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By An­drew Picken APICKEN@suNdAyPost.Com

ri­tain’s big­gest bird pro­tec­tion char­ity is “dec­i­mat­ing” jobs by op­pos­ing offshore wind farms, unions have claimed.

The GMB has hit out at RSPB Scot­land for its failed le­gal chal­lenge to four ma­jor wind projects.

The union’s in­ter­ven­tion comes in the wake of fur­ther re­dun­dan­cies at Bi­Fab fab­ri­ca­tion yards in Fife where new own­ers have been left with no work af­ter the end of an offshore re­new­ables con­tract. Just four of the 17 offshore wind projects given plan­ning ap­proval in Scot­land are op­er­a­tional, with the rest await­ing con­str uc­tion. GMB Scot­land Sec­re­tary Gary Smith said: “In the time that the RSPB at­tempted to block a num­ber of offshore wind farms, projects have switched own­ers, tech­nol­ogy has evolved – forc­ing the re­cal­i­bra­tion of orig­i­nal plans – and not a sin­gle jacket or tur­bine has been built in Scot­land.

“That’s work that could and should be de­liv­ered by the likes of Bi­Fab in Fife and Lewis, where the re­main­ing work­ers were served re­dun­dancy no­tices be­cause there are no con­tracts on the hori­zon to sus­tain their em­ploy­ment.”

Scot­land has four op­er­at­ing offshore wind farms, one more un­der con­struc­tion and a fur­ther 11 projects with plan­ning per­mis­sion that await be­ing built.

The RSPB le­gal chal­lenge was sig­nif­i­cant as it cov­ered four sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ments which were taken as one case.

The com­bined 335 tur­bines of the four schemes – Inch Cape, Sea­green Al­pha, Sea­green Bravo and Neart na Gaoith – in the Firth of Forth and Tay gen­er­ate enough power for more than 1.4 mil­lion homes, de­vel­op­ers claim. One of the most con­tro­ver­sial is the Neart na Gaoithe project about 10 miles off the coast of Fife, which was

given the go- ahead by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in 2014.

But RSPB Scot­land then em­barked on a near three- year le­gal bat­tle to stop the £ 2 bil­lion project over fears it would im­pact seabirds. The char­ity pointed to the gov­ern­ment’s own as­sess­ments – which said the plan spelt out huge risks to seabird pop­u­la­tions.

The Supreme Cour t threw the chal­lenge out last year and work is ex­pected to cre­ate up to 2,000 jobs du r in g con­struc­tion.

Aedán Smith, head of plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment at RSPB Scot­land, said: “We have pro­vided in­valu­able spe­cial­ist ad­vice to help deve lop Scot­land’s low car­bon in­dus­try in har­mony with Scot­land’s world- fa­mous na tu ra l en­vi­ron­ment.

“This has re­sulted in a win-win, with ben­e­fits for jobs whilst pro­tect­ing wildlife.”

Thou­sands of peo­ple could have been in much-needed work if the RSPB had not launched a near three-year le­gal bat­tle, the GMB says

Gary Smith of the GMB, top, has hit out at RSPB

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