Thursday, 17 January 2008

Fight is on to save crofters’ grazing land

Should the burden of renewable energy fall to the few?

From The Herald

Imagine the public outcry if the government of a modern European country sanctioned a controversial planning application, from a giant multinational company, that would deprive indigenous farming people of thousands of acres of their common land - in the process destroying history, heritage and archaeology of national, if not international, importance - in order to turn the land into an industrial wasteland.

That would never be allowed, I hear you say. Never? That is precisely what would happen if the Scottish Government consented to the application by Amec, in the name Lewis Windpower, to build a giant 181-turbine windfarm on the Isle of Lewis. The Lewis peatlands, being Amec's chosen site for the windfarm, also happen to be the common grazings shared by hundreds of crofters.

Amec has no respect for this land, or the indigenous people on the land. Amec cares only about the wind that blows across it, and the vast amount of money it would stand to make from "harvesting" this wind.

But the crofters don't share Amec's contempt for their grazings, and last year more than 730 of them wrote to the Scottish Government, and to the Scottish Land Court, making their opposition and objections clear.

The reality, therefore, is that if the government consented to this development, an unprecedented legal battle would ensue. The developer would attempt to force hundreds of crofters off their land to make way for the windfarm; but the crofters have already told the government they will take their fight to protect their rights - enshrined in the 1886 Crofting Act - to the courts. And another major battle is also very much on the cards, as the RSPB has confirmed it would take its objections to the windfarm to the EU courts.

Surely SNP ministers, who are so committed to the future of crofting, and to the preservation of the natural heritage and environment, would never sanction the destruction of thousands of acres of unique crofting landscape, and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of Lewis crofters and their families... would they?

Dina Murray, 49 North Galson, Isle of Lewis.

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