Only a month after the Scottish courts re-opened the way for the 450 megawatt Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm being developed by Mainstream Renewable Power, the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has applied to the UK Supreme Court to continue their fight against the development of the project.
The legal battles surrounding the 450 MW (megawatt) Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm have been long and arduous, but have been primarily focused around complaints levied against the project by the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) — and a total of 2.3 GW (gigawatts) worth of offshore wind set for development off the coast of Scotland. The fundamental issue are concerns over the impact the offshore wind farms would have on migratory seabirds.
In July, it seemed that all was finally over, with the Inner House of the Court of Session refusing the RSPB’s application to appeal a May decision that overturned previous decisions in favor of the RSPB. Specifically, in May, Lord Carloway, the Lord President of the Court of Session, penned an Opinion of the Court which dispatched the original judge’s findings, saying that the judge “strayed well beyond the limits of testing the legality of the process and has turned himself into the decision-maker following what appears to have been treated as an appeal against the respondents’ decisions on the facts.”
“After more than two years and two court hearings, we hope that the RSPB acknowledges a fair hearing and allows us to get on with delivering the very significant benefits this project brings to the Scottish economy and its environment,” said Andy Kinsella, Chief Operating Officer, Mainstream Renewable Power, in July. “Once constructed, this £2bn project will be capable of supplying 325,000 homes — a city the size of Edinburgh — with clean energy.”
However, the RSPB Scotland announced on Tuesday that it has applied directly to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the decision which gave permission for four separate offshore wind projects in the Scottish Firths of Forth and Tay. The RSPB, while claiming that it is seeking to work in cooperation with the Scottish Government to further the development of offshore wind energy, nevertheless believes that offshore wind development will “result in major declines to our internationally renowned seabird colonies including gannets, puffins and kittiwakes that breed and forage in the region.”
“RSPB Scotland has not taken this decision lightly, however our concerns with the manner in which Scottish Ministers’ took their decisions in 2014 remain undiminished,” explained Anne McCall, Director, RSPB Scotland.
“Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House judgement extend beyond simply the impacts of these developments on important seabird populations. Therefore due to the implications of this latest decision for many aspects of our work we felt we had no choice but to apply to the Supreme Court. We are hopeful that our application is successful and that we are granted leave to appeal so these important issues of public interest can be considered in detail by the Supreme Court.”
However, within a day of the RSPB announcing its intention to apply direct to the Supreme Court, the newly-formed NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition — made up of organizations and companies that support the development of the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm — penned an open letter to the RSPB Scotland, urging them to abandon further court action, or risk 600 local jobs and £2 billion.
The Coalition is made up of 29 companies representing businesses that will lose out on 600 jobs that the Neart na Gaoithe project will provide during construction and operation, and are concerned that the £2 billion investment in the project will be put at risk.
“We have come together to call on RSPB Scotland to recognise the serious social, economic and environmental consequences of ignoring the advice of the Inner House of Scotland’s Court of Session and continuing to appeal this decision,” said Alan Duncan of Scotia Supply Chain, and a spokesperson for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition.
“Hundreds of families in communities across the east of Scotland will be directly affected should this project not go ahead. Highly skilled jobs, vital apprenticeships and the socio-economic benefits of this project are all at risk for the hard-pressed communities within the region.
“While we are sympathetic to the concerns of the RSPB about the planning process, this is about real people, real jobs and real environmental benefit. Scotland cannot afford to put nationally significant infrastructure projects like NnG at risk. We all work in the environmental power sector, developing projects like NnG which will help to combat climate change, protect our environment and create jobs. The project has sought to work with RSPB from day one and we are keen to continue to work together with them to increase industry understanding of how offshore wind assets and wildlife can successfully thrive together. We strongly believe that the output of the legal due process should be respected and we call on the RSPB to abandon their appeal to the Supreme Court and agree to work with us to deliver this exciting project of huge importance to Scotland.”