Friday, 11 November 2011

Scottish National Wind Farm Conference 2011

Today has been a day spent in .... Ayr. The first National Wind Farm Conference was quite the success. A number of excellent presentations were given and over the coming weeks, I will make the material from these presentations available. Some of the presentations were technical in nature, but I will attempt to present them in a digestible format - hopefully without losing the context.

There was unprecedented access to really eminent individuals who were more than happy to apply their knowledge to specific situations. From acousticians to medical experts. From mathematicians to grid engineers, all you had to do was walk up and ask them a question. Unfortunately certain organisations who most certainly have a stake in the wind farm debate were rather obvious by their absence. SNH, Visit Scotland and OFGEM were three organisations who were all invited to attend but didn't. Shame. We had our token SNP politician (in the form of Chic Brodie), who put in a distinctly lack-lustre performance and seemed more interested in pedalling the SNPs rather weak response to tackling fuel poverty than dealing with the underlying issues. No matter, the politicians will be called to account when the lights start to flicker - and flicker they will.

A number of things struck me during the conference. The fist was the commonality with regard to the stories being told; the ambivalence of politicians with regard to reasoned argument - the 'hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil' attitude we all seem to encounter in our own areas of concern. The refusal to believe that our elected representatives may actually be wrong. The prevalence of inappropriate sighting of wind farms and turbines was also apparent. Additionally, the diverse range of attendees - people from the Hebrides, to England were present as were representatives from individual pressure groups and local authority Councillors. I have no doubt that a follow-up event will be arranged, and I imagine lessons will be learned from this one - the next will be bigger and better. As soon as I get 'wind' of such an event, rest assured that I will be amongst the first to let you know.

At the end of the conference a vote was taken and almost unanimously, Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS) was approved as an umbrella organisation to take the Scottish debate to a higher level - representing Scotland as a whole. This doesn't mean local pressure groups have no role to play. Quite the reverse. Local pressure groups are the people who blow the whistle locally, have their finger on the pulse on their area of focus and are thus absolutely essential to the process. However, this debate needs to be taken to the centre of power - and CATS might just be the organisation to do this. I think the wind farm debate is about to get a whole lot more public and painful - for certain organisations; there is a critical mass of informed and capable individuals who are prepared and able to make this happen.

If you are from a Scottish pressure group, please get in touch with CATS (if you haven't already) - I think there is now a real opportunity to blow this whole debate into the public domain and start to present a coherent, reasoned argument at a level where we can make a really significant difference.

Finally, a massive vote of thanks has to go to CATS for arranging the event. A very large rabbit was pulled out of the hat today. Well done!