Renewable Energy (Planning Guidelines)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 22nd March 2011.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

6. To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government considers that planning guidelines for renewable energy projects strike a balance between the interests of developers and those of local communities. (S3F-2989)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government works with planners and communities to ensure that the correct balance is struck between the interests of developers and local communities in considering applications for renewable energy projects.

We are determined to ensure that Scotland’s local communities enjoy the benefits of increased renewable energy generation. I am sure that Murdo Fraser will join me in welcoming the work that has been undertaken by the Scottish Government to ensure that communities do so benefit.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

Notwithstanding the First Minister’s response, he should be aware that, in the absence of clear locational planning guidance, communities up and down Scotland feel under siege from speculative wind farm planning applications. The Scottish National Party manifesto in 2007 pledged a nationwide assessment of renewables sites, but that has not been delivered. Should the First Minister be re-elected, will he keep his promise this time, or will this be a matter for post-election negotiations?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

As Murdo Fraser should well know, planning guidelines have been substantially clarified over the past four years in terms of that objective. Murdo Fraser also knows well that major renewables developments come to the Government for consent. I am delighted to say that, today, the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism has approved the 41st major renewables project under this Administration. That is twice the number of the previous Administration.

All that I say to Murdo Fraser is that we believe and expect that, as part of a green economy of over 100,000 jobs that will be created between now and 2020, at least 40,000 to 50,000 will be generated by offshore wind developments and, indeed, the facilities that have been put in place to allow Scotland’s renewables to reach the marketplace.

I am sure that most people—maybe everyone in the chamber—wants to see such jobs. I say as gently as possible to Murdo Fraser that we cannot have the jobs unless we are prepared to approve the developments. If he takes a position against major investments in this industry then, by definition, he takes a position against Scotland having tens of thousands of jobs in the industry.

Photo of Karen Gillon Karen Gillon Labour

Does the First Minister accept that the decision to remove the right of communities to automatic notification when plans are outwith a development plan, at the stroke of a ministerial pen and without consultation with the Parliament, has been a retrograde step?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

No. I think that the planning guidelines are a substantial improvement on what went before. As Karen Gillon represents communities in which there have been and are to be major projects, I hope that she contributed to the Scottish Government’s consultation on exactly how community benefits can be further enhanced, because that is certainly the way forward.

If she argues that there should be a more defined community benefit onshore and is prepared to join us in arguing for the Crown Estate to be brought under Scottish Parliament control, she will find a willing ear from this First Minister. That would seem to me to be a productive way of securing the benefits of the renewables revolution.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Before I come to Liam McArthur’s point of order, I will deal with the point of order that Jeremy Purvis made earlier, when the Deputy Presiding Officer was in the chair.

I have previously made it clear that, essentially, the matter that he raised is one for the convener of the Finance Committee, but I will reflect further on the point of order and, if I have anything further to add, I will come back to the member in writing.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

As the session comes to a close, can you advise on what opportunity exists to rectify the false impression that was created, perhaps inadvertently, by an answer that the First Minister gave to a question at question time last week? In response to a question from me on the circumstances surrounding the resignation of the Rev Graham Blount from the Scottish fuel poverty forum, the First Minister stated:

“It is quite clear from the Rev Graham Blount’s letter that he doubts the effectiveness of the schemes that relate to the £12.5 million for local councils.”—[Official Report, 17 March 2011; c 34610.]

As the First Minister will be aware from the letter that Graham Blount sent to his minister in which he tendered his resignation, Graham Blount made it explicit that he was reacting not

“to the substance of the policy change” but to the fact that the forum—and he, as its chair—had been left in the dark about that announcement and a range of other matters.

How could the First Minister set the record straight, in the interests of tackling an issue that all of us in the chamber take very seriously?

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I have made it abundantly clear over the past four years that the matter of veracity is not a point of order for me; it is a matter for those who speak on the subject.