Billions of potential Isles investment ‘up in the air’

Comhairl Leader Angus Campbell and Western MP Angus MacNeil both presented the local perspective at the talks.
Comhairl Leader Angus Campbell and Western MP Angus MacNeil both presented the local perspective at the talks.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader Angus Campbell this week expressed his hopes that proposed wind energy projects on the Western Isles will continue with UK Government subsidies - and trigger a £2.5 billion investment.

But he admits the decision remains up in the air following a fifth meeting of the Scottish Islands Renewables Delivery Forum which was co-chaired by Scotland’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse and UK Energy Secretary Greg Clark in Stornoway.

He said: “The minister came to listen and he let us put our case across,” he said. “He didn’t make any commitments to any decisions. He was very clear he feels there are some barriers to things going ahead in terms of his own party’s stance.

“But he was very open to all our arguments and discussions and although he didn’t give us a time, he will try and give us an answer in the near future, so at least we know where we stand.

“Unfortunately it is still very much up in the air.”

Also present at the talks was Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil who has called on the Government to ‘stop stalling’ and back island renewables now. He said: “The islands were not in the past considered to be in the ‘onshore renewables’ category so therefore should not be considered to be now but in a very different category.

“Islands renewables are better value for money to the consumer than some other forms in regards the cost to the consumer.

“The merit order effect as it is known, is bringing down the cost of energy as previously installed renewable capacity provides very cheap energy and this will continue.”

Also taking part in the talks was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Lord Dunlop, who insisted the Government are carefully considering all outcomes.

He said: “I think the talks were very constructive and they were an opportunity for Greg Clark to hear first hand from the islands and the leaders, the developers and they put their case clearly and comprehensively and I thought it was very constructive.

“For the Secretary of State one of the key issues is the degree of community involvement. That is what makes the proposition on the islands so unique and he was really keen to probe into that dimension specifically as well as the other issues he will ultimately need to balance.

“The very fact he came to Lewis I think shows the importance of the issues for the UK government and to hear what the likely economic impact would be and how it potentially could be transformational for the islands.”

Lord Dunlop added: “In terms of the current consultation that is closed.

“There has been well over 100 submissions to that consultation and Greg Clark made it clear at that meeting he personally wants to go through those responses.

“He didn’t want to put a specific date on when he might reach a decision but he is conscious he doesn’t want this issue to drag on and island communities and the developers will want certainty as soon as is practical.”