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Tories accused of hypocrisy over wind-farm fees

The Scottish Conservatives have been accused of "hypocritical posturing" for opposing wind farms when three of their MSPs together stand to profit by at least £50,000 a year from them.

The Sunday Herald can reveal that Jamie McGrigor, the party's environment spokesman, Alex Fergusson, the Scottish Parliament's former presiding officer, and John Scott, the current deputy presiding officer, are each expecting to receive a substantial annual income from wind turbines on or near their land.

They have declared their involvement in the latest register of MSPs' interests, but political opponents and environmental groups say it conflicts with the new anti-wind farm policy adopted by the Scottish Conservatives last month.

A report, launched by party leader Ruth Davidson, demanded a big cut in the number of wind farms planned on land, and for wind subsidies to be halved. It also called for councils to have the power to impose a one-year moratorium on new wind turbines.

"This hypocrisy from the Tories is a classic case of do as I say, not as I do," said SNP MSP Chic Brodie, a member of the Parliament's economy, energy and tourism committee.

"They might be vocal opponents of Scotland's renewable energy potential in public these days, but they remain perfectly content to personally profit from wind turbines."

Brodie argued that renewable energy offered Scotland massive investment and thousands of jobs. "No amount of hypocritical posturing from the Tories can change that fact, as these MSPs clearly recognise for themselves," he added.

McGrigor, the Tory MSP for the Highlands and Islands, received an initial fee of £5000 and is expecting to be paid £5000-£6000 a year for 20 wind turbines planned by German power firm RWE on his Ardchonnel sheep farm, near Dalmally in Argyll.

Fergusson, the Tory MSP for Galloway and West Dumfries, gets between £40,000 and £45,000 a year from 52 wind turbines run by Scottish and Southern Energy on his land at Hadyard Hill in South Ayrshire.

Scott, the Conservative MSP for Ayr, has a deal which lets Spanish- owned Scottish Power use his farm near Girvan to access its 60-turbine Arecleoch wind farm in South Ayrshire. The deal is understood to be worth more than £5000 a year.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, called on the Scottish Conservatives to abandon the "narrow anti-wind agenda" being promoted by a few prominent party members.

"Most people in Scotland think wind farms are a good thing," he added. "Anyone who believes anti-wind policies will significantly boost the Tories' electoral fortunes is making a big mistake."

Niall Stuart, chief executive of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: "I hope those Conservative MSPs who have first-hand knowledge of the sector can perhaps explain to their colleagues that onshore wind is the cheapest and one of the most effective sources of renewable electricity we have."

ONE of the architects of the Scottish Tories' new policy, MEP Struan Stevenson, is planning to launch a book in Edinburgh on Thursday attacking the "green energy myth". He bills it as "a clarion call for the tens of thousands who have seen their lives and landscapes blighted by industrial wind turbines."

The Scottish Parliament is also due to debate the Scottish Government's targets to boost renewable energy later that day. The Parliament's energy committee, led by Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, concluded that the targets were "achievable".

The Scottish Conservatives insisted there was "no problem" with wind farms as long as they were appropriately sited and had public support.

"These are personal matters for the MSPs involved, and do not dictate Scottish Conservative party policy," said a party spokesman.

"That policy does not oppose wind farms outright, so accusations of hypocrisy are wide of the mark. We are simply concerned, as many are across Scotland, that the SNP is moving too fast in approving significant numbers of wind farms at the expense of Scotland's countryside."

When asked to comment on his party's energy policy, John Scott said: "I really haven't got anything to say about that." McGrigor and Fergusson did not comment.

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