A coalition of organisations that are supportive of the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm, consented to be built off the East coast of Scotland, have joined forces to appeal to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland (RSPB Scotland) to abandon further court action aimed at delaying the project.
29 companies, who will be behind the creation of many of the 600 jobs the offshore wind farm will create during construction and operation, have formed the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition to campaign in support of the project, which is the only major infrastructure project that is ready to build in Scotland next year.
RSPB Scotland has applied to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal against the development which it argues would impact seabird colonies.
In its first collective action, members of the coalition have written an open letter to RSPB Scotland which states that the Scottish renewables supply chain can ill afford further delays in the project and appeals to the membership organisation to accept the recent decision of the Scottish courts.
RSPB Scotland mounted a legal challenge after the Scottish Government consented to four developments in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay in 2014.
The charity won at first instance but lost on appeal after it was denied permission to appeal to the UK’s highest court by the Court of Session and has now applied directly to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal.
NnG is one of four wind farms consented in the outer Forth and Tay estuaries and the only one which has been awarded a Contract for Difference, meaning it is ready to start construction as early as next year.
Alan Duncan of Scotia Supply Chain, and a spokesperson for the NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition, said: “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. 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.”
However, RSPB Scotland has argued the project threatens Scotland’s gannet, puffin and kittiwake populations.
RSPB Scotland director Anne McCall said: “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.
“Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House judgment 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.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We note the RSPB’s decision, which comes after the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled, decisively, in favour of Scottish ministers and subsequently dismissed the RSPB’s application for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
“The Scottish government is focused on creating a sustainable energy future for Scotland so that Scotland can meet its obligations to fight climate change, and thereby tackling a key threat to marine ecosystems.”