Few in the SNP administration have campaigned more vigorously for renewable energy and wind farm development than Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing.
But now a different Mr Ewing has been revealed – it’s Fergus Ewing, the anti-wind farm campaigner!
It has now emerged that – when in opposition – Mr Ewing spoke out strongly against windfarm development in 2007 in his Inverness and Nairn constituency, exposing the Minister to charges of “extraordinary hypocrisy” from Conservative energy spokesman Murdo Fraser.
A report in the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald at the time carried a lengthy quote from the local MSP amid concerns that the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park was becoming a magnet for wind farm developments, destroying some of Scotland’s most spectacular rugged landscapes.
Mr Ewing accused the Scottish Executive of acting irresponsibly in paving the way for so much wind farm development.
He said: “In 2003 I met with Scottish Executive Minister Lewis MacDonald to call for a tighter policy on wind energy with restrictions as to where they can be sited taking account of the scenic value of the landscape and its impact on tourism.
“Secondly, I called for the Executive to ensure that where wind farms are permitted that the wider community benefits not just the wind companies and landowners.
“The SNP believes that many other forms of renewable energy are the future – not unconstrained wind farms – such as tidal power, wave power, solar energy, geothermal heat sources and hydrogen cells.
“These are technologies of the future and in some cases the present. Wind farms have, however, a very heavy environmental footprint not only blotting the landscape in places such as Dava which has huge beauty and Lochindorb which is of considerable historic interest, but also in the release of substantial quantities of methane from peat landscapes such as that proposed by the Eurus wind farm at Glenkirk.”
Oh, dear. That was Mr Ewing then. How embarrassing for Mr Ewing now.
It is expected the Scottish government will make a statement to Holyrood today (Tuesday) criticising the UK Government’s decision to end onshore wind subsidies.
The Scottish Conservatives have pointed out it is unlikely Mr Ewing will adopt a similar tone today, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon having already described the end to subsidy as “wrong-headed, perverse and downright outrageous”.
Said Murdo Fraser, “The SNP is guilty of the most extraordinary hypocrisy on the issue of wind subsidies.
“On the one hand we have both Nicola Sturgeon and Fergus Ewing using the most extreme language to condemn the decision by the UK Government to end wind subsidies, a decision which follows on a clear manifesto commitment, and one which has been warmly welcomed by communities across Scotland.
“Yet the same Fergus Ewing was, back in 2007, taking exactly the same stance as the Scottish Conservatives are today on wind development, and objecting to projects within his own constituency.
“The Fergus Ewing of 2007 would no doubt have enthusiastically supported moves to cut wind power subsidies, as the Conservatives are now doing.
“We can only speculate why, in the transmission from opposition to government, he has had such a miraculous change in view.”
Many within the SNP itself have long been sceptical of the claims of Scottish Renewables and wind farm development. And they have been particularly concerned at the enormous visual damage done to Scotland’s landscapes and natural heritage.
On this issue, it seems Mr Ewing has quite lost his way…