Government under fire over blueprint for green power

The Scottish Government has been criticised by NFU Scotland for not yet delivering a promised renewable energy strategy for the agricultural industry.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead revealed the strategy amid a blaze of publicity at the Black Isle Show at the start of August and said it would be in place in 2012.

But since then there has been no movement. The industry group which will be used to formulate the plan has still to meet and there is, as yet, no date set for its first gathering.

The only indication from the government is that it expects the blueprint to be in place in the summer.

A spokeswoman was unable to explain the reasons for the group failing to meet, nor give any indication of when it will get together for its inaugural session.

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller had hailed the pledge for a strategy when Mr Lochhead originally announced his plans given the huge interest in all types of renewable energy schemes for power generation to creating heat.

He hoped it would help address issues farmers, crofters and landowners faced because of obstacles and anomalies in planning procedures.

That was acknowledged by Mr Lochhead at the time. He said then: “We are all on a steep learning curve, and need to quickly learn to take advantage of the industry’s increasing enthusiasm. We need to get our heads around the various challenges as well as the opportunities.

“Issues such as funding, planning, accessing grid connections, choosing the best technology, and so on, are all topics that farmers and others wish to see addressed in a well-thought-out strategy. In a few years’ time, I hope every farm in Scotland is benefiting from renewable energy in some shape or form. If we can make that vision reality, then that will be truly transformational.”

But union vice-president Allan Bowie said the list of issues facing farmers keen to diversify into renewable energy was growing, rather than diminishing. Inconsistencies in the planning system, difficulties in getting site approvals and problems connecting to the national grid were the three main problems.

He added: “The (government’s) target to be able to produce 100% of our electricity demand equivalent from renewable sources by 2020 is attainable, but we need the strategy and a clear steer from the Scottish Government on agri-renewables to be in place as soon as possible.

“The strategy, with the assistance and involvement of industry, would be invaluable for all farmers wanting to make the most of the opportunities for producing green energy on their land.”