AN SNP Minister is facing questions over controversial plans for a golf course in the Highlands after she said the Government is “likely” to intervene in the case.

Maree Todd made the claim, which would give her colleagues the power to block the planning application, even though the Coul Links proposal has not yet reached the Government.

Scottish Tory planning spokesman Graham Simpson said: “Maree Todd should have no idea whether this will be called in or not. That’s a decision for the planning minister and she should say how she knows this.”

Highland councillors last month voted to approve plans led by US tycoon Todd Warnock for a golf course near Embo in Sutherland.

Supporters believe the proposal will boost economic development and tourism in the area, but part of the planned development would be on a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

It was also given the go-ahead despite being recommended for refusal by Highland Council planning officials.

A row has now broken out over the next stage in the process, which could ultimately lead to the Government blocking the plans.

The Government has the power to ‘call in’ planning applications, after which an independent Reporter carries out an examination.

In the case of Coul Links, the process has not reached the stage where this is an option for the Government.

However, in a message to a campaigner who is opposed to the golf course, Todd stated:

“I haven’t taken a position - mainly because I am a government minister and I think it’s likely it will be called in and I don’t want to pre-empt that decision. Once a decision is made - I will be bound by it because of collective responsibility.”

Todd is Minister for Childcare and Early Years and a List MSP in the Highlands and Islands.

Asked whether it is “likely” the application will be called in, a Government spokesperson said:

“As councillors have approved the proposal, against the advice of SNH [a public body], the local authority must formally notify Scottish Ministers. Once Ministers are in receipt of this notification, they will then decide whether or not to call in the application for their own determination.”

The Scottish Ministerial Code notes that it “entirely legitimate” for Ministers, in their capacity as MSPs, to make representations on behalf of their electorate on planning matters.

But it adds: “They should make no comment of their own where the determination of a planning application will lead to, or will implicitly involve, other decisions in which the Minister making representations on behalf of a particular constituency or region is involved in his or her own Ministerial capacity.”

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said: “It appears that Maree Todd has exercised poor judgement by speculating SNP Ministers will intervene in a controversial planning decision before due process has been followed. This correspondence shows that the Minister hasn’t respected the need for transparency and fair process.”

The Sunday Herald contacted the SNP press office, but no comment was provided.