Energy Infrastructure Plans across the Highland & Island Region

I appreciate that many residents feel very strongly opposed to power lines, turbines and other infrastructure plans that are currently underway across the Highland and Island region. I have received and read through a significant number of emails from constituents and community groups who have put forward their objections. I want to thank those that took the time to contact me and appreciate the strength of feeling on the matter.

A consistent objection is the lack of engagement and communication with the local community. Consultation and plans on projects – including its location, size, physical, environmental, economic and social impact – must all have local residents at its heart, and this must be built into every stage of the decision-making process. We can all agree on the importance of moving towards net zero, but this cannot come at the expense of local communities. I have been clear that any economic and community benefits of a project must be clearly communicated to residents and this commitment must be long-term to provide assurances to residents and businesses. In terms of granting permission for projects, the planning process is in the hands of Highland Council and the Scottish Government and as such, MSPs have no locus in what is a legal process.

Scottish Labour have met with SSEN on a number of occasions recently to make them aware of individual and group concerns about how constituents’ lives will be affected by planned projects and have echoed concerns about the consultation process. The strength of feeling on this issue has also been raised consistently in the Scottish Parliament through committee and chamber business by myself and my Labour colleagues. In addition to this, Scottish Labour will hold a roundtable discussion on grid infrastructure with supply chain developers and ScotWind next month and the concerns raised through the contact I have received will be discussed.

Through my work in Parliament and in discussions with Scottish Government and local partners, I will continue to push to ensure planning legislation is strong enough to investigate and has the capacity to consider and act upon the full range of impacts that infrastructure projects have on those living nearby.