THE boss of a renewable energy company which is investing millions in the Highlands has apologised for making a series of offensive comments about gays and disabled people on social media.
ABO Wind UK manager Matt Braund referred on Facebook to "homsexual [sic] retarded" sportsmen, urged lesbians to stop looking like men, and described singer Cheryl Cole as a "spastic". He also said the late Boyzone star Stephen Gately, who died at the age of 33, "had it coming". Gately was hailed as a hero of gay rights before his death.
ABO Wind UK, a subsidiary of a German-based offshore wind company, said last year it was spearheading a £390 million investment programme in the Highlands.
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One initiative in Sutherland is up and running and ABO Wind is also investigating the "potential" for a 25-turbine development in the Kilmorack Community Council area.
The firm's Inverness office was also opened last year by Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.
However, Braund, ABO Wind UK's project development manager, is now in the spotlight over a series of inappropriate comments on social media.
In May 2010, a day after the General Election, Braund wrote: "Can't understand why we don't get rid of the public sector once and for all. Fed up with this country being brought down by too much money being spent on work shy t***s who don't have the balls to get jobs and lower my tax bill."
Later that month, he posted: "Reckons Steven [sic] Gately had it coming!"
Two days later, he commented: "Is it me or is Sheryl [sic] Cole just a stupid geordie spastic?"
In June of that year, he wrote: "I suppose i should be shouting my support for the homsexual [sic], retarded "sportsmen" that are just about to represent our country abroad."
In September last year, five months after Ewing opened ABO Wind UK's Inverness office, Braund wrote: "Just seen a couple of island lesbians ... women of that certain disposition should understand that if you hate men so much, you should stop trying to look like them!"
Braund's Facebook account was public and the posts were available when this newspaper contacted the ABO press office at 2.20pm on Friday afternoon. Thirty-five minutes later, the account was no longer available.
In the press release to mark the opening of the Highlands office, Ewing was quoted saying: "Today it has been a pleasure to meet with staff at ABO and to open their new office in Inverness."
Denise Davis, the former leader of the Druim Ba Say No anti-wind farm campaign, said: "I am disturbed and revolted by the posts and comments Matt Braund made public on his Facebook page."
Lyndsey Ward, of the ABO-We Say No anti-wind farm campaign group, said: "I couldn't believe anyone is this day and age would be so insulting to those groups of people in a public forum. These are not the antics of a mischievous schoolboy who doesn't know any better. This is someone in a position of responsibility who deals with the public and politicians, including a Government minister."
Braund said yesterday: "I am aware of the comments that have been attributed to me on my Facebook page. These comments are accurate and they were posted by me. However, they were not intended for public consumption and they were not posted to purposely offend anyone. I apologise that some of the language used and the comments made are inappropriate.
"To remedy the situation I have now removed my Facebook page. In future I will ensure that I am more aware of the dangers of using social media to share private remarks with close friends. I do not condone the use of offensive comments and on this occasion I have let myself down."
A spokesman for ABO Wind UK said: "ABO Wind is aware of the personal comments that have been attributed to our employee Matt Braund. We have asked him to explain if these comments are accurate and on what basis they were made. We will review the situation once we have the benefit of his explanation. ABO is a company that values our engagement with the community. We disassociate ourselves from all comments of an offensive nature."