A remote Highland community is pleading with Scottish ministers to allow a controversial wind farm, which is opposed by conservationists.
Strathy and Armadale Community Council in the north of Sutherland believes SSE's plan for the £100m Strathy South, 39 turbine wind farm, will invigorate the area's economy on a scale never before thought possible and help stem depopulation.
In particular that it would expand the existing 33 turbine Strathy North scheme, which has created jobs and generates more than £170,000 a year for community projects.
Loading article content
A public inquiry into the 39 turbine development opens next week in Strathy Village Hall and Community Council Chair Janette Mackay says she is hopeful the voice of the local people will be heard.
She said "I fear that the voice of communities trying to live and work in this part of Highland Sutherland is often ignored by outside parties like the RSPB. Strathy and Armadale Community Council is very supportive of the Strathy South wind farm proposal because it would offer great investment for our fragile rural economy including jobs for our young folk and opportunities for local businesses. SSE is a company we trust that is already providing real benefit to our community through the Strathy North wind farm."
But she said this was not the only reason community councillors were supportive. "We are keenly aware that our Flow Country is so precious and we welcome the major environmental restoration proposal being put forward as a core element of the Strathy South project. The plans would see experts restore and manage 3,200 hectares of long-damaged peatland around the wind farm site, on a scale we could never have dreamed possible, let alone affordable."
George Campbell, Highland Regional Director, of RSPB Scotland had every sympathy with local people wishing to see investment in their communities.
"However we believe strongly that the development of a wind farm at Strathy South is simply the wrong approach to take. Strathy South lies in the very heart of the internationally important habitats of the Flow Country, a peatland ecosystem important for birds and which is increasingly valued as a carbon store.
"That is why many conservation organisations including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Plantlife Scotland and the government's own advisors, Scottish Natural Heritage, are recommending refusal of the application by SSE. "
He said RSPB "emphatically" believed there was a role for renewable energy projects, but they had to be in the right locations.
The area in question is home to iconic, but threatened species like red-throated divers, hen harriers, greenshanks and the rare, wood sandpiper.