WESTMINSTER has launched an unprecedented legal action against the SNP Government to scupper a renewable energy project – and potentially bankrupt a family business.
Through the Advocate General for Scotland, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has raised a test case at the Court of Session to try to block a windfarm supported by SNP ministers.
The MoD claims the three 900kW turbines at Monymusk would interfere with its coastal radar station at RAF Buchan near Peterhead, more than 50km to the north east.
Loading article content
Hillfarmer Steve Clark, who has already spent £130,000 of his own money and as much again in government grants on the project, now faces financial ruin through legal bills and delays.
He says that unless the windfarm is working by March 2017, it will be too late to qualify for vital renewable energy subsidies being phased out by the Conservative government.
Clark, 51, from Kenmay, said the MoD had waited until the last possible day to bring the test case, then sent sheriff officers to his door with a writ, reducing his wife Michelle to tears.
He told the Sunday Herald: “It’s been an absolute disaster. We’re on our knees with this.
“My wife has struggled with her blood pressure and when the sheriff officers arrived she was in tears and said, ‘We can’t take much more of this’.
“There’s been four years and about £260,000 spent on this and now we’re almost back at the beginning again. We were just about ready to start building. Now local contractors have been laid off. "It’s been devastating. It would have kept people employed for a year.
“It’s going to be an awful waste of money by the two governments. It’s a test case for the MoD against the Scottish Government and we’re caught in the middle of it.”
The Clarks’ windfarm would see £600,000 given to a local community trust over 20 years.
However the MoD argue the “cumulative effect” of the 74m-high turbines and others nearby would create false alarms and other “anomalies”, making it harder to detect aircraft.
“The strategic importance of Buchan is such that any degradation to the radar picture would … impact the MoD’s ability to protect the integrity of UK airspace,” the military warned.
Aberdeenshire Council refused the Clarks planning permission last year, but they won an appeal after a Scottish Government reporter said the radar issue could be resolved through a “mitigation scheme” – something the MoD dispute.
After an initial legal hearing last month, another is due before the Inner House of the Court of Session next April, pending a £42,000 mitigation survey at Monymusk.
Clark, who keeps a herd of Aberdeen Angus, said he was inspired to start the windfarm after hearing SNP Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead urge farmers to diversify into renewables.
He said: “We would never have entered into this if we had thought there was any possibility of this happening. Farming is almost impossible. We try to diversify but what else is there to do? Our farm is up to 1000 ft. It’s 188 acres and 80 acres is hill.
“It’s all politics. That bloody MoD with the Tory government behind them can spend what it takes and drag it out until the renewables certificates run out.
“We’ve written to every minister in the Scottish Government and the only one that’s been any support is [energy minister] Fergus Ewing. But Nicola Sturgeon never got back to us and Richard Lochhead, him that planted the bloody seed in our heads, never got back to us.”
Both the MoD and Scottish Government said it would be inappropriate to comment because of the ongoing legal proceedings.