THE body representing Scotland's renewables industry has outlined the payments that companies should make to communities for building onshore wind farms in their localities.

Scottish Renewables says its "protocol" is the first of its kind for Scotland. It states that for every megawatt (MW) of installed capacity, £5000 of community benefit should be made available to communities to invest in local priorities.

For a large-scale wind farm this could mean several millions of pounds for locally identified projects over the lifetime of the development.

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The Highland Council set the same figure as a benchmark several years ago, which was not welcomed by every developer. However, neither the local authority nor Scottish Renewables can enforce the level of payment.

Critics of wind farms have described such payments as being tantamount to bribery.

But Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: "We want to clearly state our industry's commitment to delivering local benefits from every new wind farm in Scotland. The protocol will also ensure a consistent approach to the development of community benefit agreements."

David Alston, deputy leader of the Highland Council, said: "When we first adopted the £5000 per MW figure, there was stiff opposition from many parts of the industry.

"But we recognised there had to be significant payments for the local communities; that given the amount of money involved in these developments, there had to be more than a token commitment to community benefit. So the fact the industry is now accepting that is to be welcomed."