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New green energy dispute

THE environmental lobby has been split by a major new report endorsing renewable energy targets.

Greens passionate about the need for wind turbines were celebrating yesterday, while mountaineers and ramblers were deeply disappointed.

Holyrood's economy committee concluded the Scottish Government's ambitious green energy targets could be met.

MSPs said Holyrood and Westminster should work together on the issue, that the constitutional debate was not affecting investment, and that tourism was not being damaged by wind farms.

The committee, chaired by Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, also made points about the availability of finance for the infrastructure, the need for training, and the impact on hard-pressed planning departments in rural local authorities.

The inquiry began in March and heard almost 30 hours of evidence from 80 witnesses as well as 400 written submissions.

But the Mountaineering Council of Scotland expressed its disappointment. David Gibson said: "This report is a missed opportunity for Scotland to protect our fabulous open landscapes and paves the way for huge power companies to smother yet more of our mountainsides with turbines.

"It puts the onus on local authorities to prevent unsuitable developments. But councils which try to resist big wind farm developments are under increasing pressure from the Scottish Government and all too often their decisions are overruled by ministers."

Communities Against Turbines Scotland called the report "a major disappointment, not only for those who have seen through the travesty of wind power, but also for the population of Scotland".

"Committees of the Scottish Parliament are supposed to question and interrogate the Parliament, not behave like the First Minister's lapdogs."

But Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, welcomed many of the findings of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee. She said: "This has been one of the most detailed and debated committee inquiries in the Scottish Parliament's history and it has confirmed what we have said for some time; that the ambitious targets for the renewables industry are achievable."

Dr Sam Gardner of WWF Scotland said: "This report provides a welcome boost to Scotland's renewable ambitions. It was clear from the beginning that the 100% electricity target is eminently achievable, and this inquiry has provided cross- party confirmation."

Mr Gardner noted the report contained no reference to the submissions of US business tycoon Donald Trump, adding: "He really needs to get the message that he is massively out of line with public opinion in Scotland."

l The cost of Government support for low-carbon electricity under the new Energy Bill will add less than £100 to the average household's bills annually, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said.

Critics claim the legislation will send consumers' bills soaring, by authorising ministers to put £7.6 billion towards green power generation in 2020, up from £2.35bn this year.

But environmentalists say the bill does not go far enough, because it does not include a target to slash carbon emissions from the power sector by 2030 – although it does include the power to set a target in 2016 if it is considered necessary.

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Local government

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