Article by Auslan Cramb, The Daily Telegraph
LANDOWNERS yesterday dismissed a claim that they were the only group to benefit financially from renewable energy projects as "overly simplistic and misleading".
Scottish Land & Estates, which represents 2,500 landowners north of the Border, said incentives to encourage organisations and individuals to take up renewable energy schemes were available "right across the board".
The organisation was responding to a statement from Alison Elliot, the chairman of the Scottish Government's Land Reform Review group, who said it would look at ways of redistributing money received by landowners from wind turbines on their estates.
The former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland added: "We have got to the stage where this is one of the things which we will be looking at, investigating if the benefits people derive from large-scale renewable projects are distributed as well as they might be." She said she had been struck by a document submitted by the Church that criticised the "unacceptable" levels of rural fuel poverty.
The Kirk's response to the group's consultation was critical of a system that saw millionaire landowners earn large sums from wind farms.
Critics claim the payments come from subsidies that hit ordinary electricity users and represent a "significant transfer" of income from domestic consumers to lairds.
However, a spokesman for Scottish Land & Estates said that many large-scale renewable energy schemes were already delivering significant benefits to communities in terms of funds for local projects.
He added: "Our members are wholly committed to helping eradicate fuel poverty and only last week more than 100 people attended a Scottish Land & Estates event in Aberdeenshire to look at how the energy efficiency of Scotland's traditional rural housing stock can be improved.
"The suggestion that only private landowners benefit from renewable energy projects is overly simplistic and misleading."
The Kirk's statement said: "The Church is concerned this redistribution of income is tending to promote inequality.
"The ownership of land in Scotland remains deeply inequitable and the new landed income from wind power entrenches that inequality."
Ms Elliot, who will speak at the annual meeting of Scottish Land & Estates next week, said the submission was "creative" and her group would comment on fuel property in its report next year. It was established by ministers to look at extending right-to-buy legislation.
Her comments were made in an interview with Newcast magazine, published by the land agents Smiths Gore.
Meanwhile, it was reported that wind farm operators north of the Border had been paid nearly £6million in the past 33 days not to generate electricity due to an excess of power going into the National Grid.
Turbine Trump starts court challenge
Donald Trump yesterday began a legal challenge against the Scottish Government's approval of an off-shore wind farm.
A petition was lodged with the Court of Session in Edinburgh asking the court to declare that the decision not to hold a public inquiry and to approve the scheme were unlawful. The American tycoon opposes the 11-turbine development, claiming that it will spoil the view from his nearby golf course.
The Trump International Golf Links was opened in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire last summer with the support of politicians and businesses but was strongly opposed by some local residents and environmentalists.
Mr Trump said it was "unfortunate" he had been forced to go to the courts, but said: "I plan on proceeding for as long as required, irrespective of cost."
The Scottish Government said that the planned wind farm "offers a significant and strategic opportunity to drive the harnessing of Scotland's vast offshore renewable resources forward".