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Author, 01/07/2004

"The fundamental problem with the Executive's approach to date is the lack of a proper strategy for renewable energy, which has left us in a situation where new technologies such as wave and tidal power have been neglected and all the investment has gone into developing onshore wind farms. This policy is hugely controversial in rural Scotland, particularly in Aberdeenshire , where communities have felt under siege from a proliferation of planning applications for wind farms, which will have a devastating effect on the landscape and environment in some of our most fragile areas. Just this week we saw the approval of the development at Tullos. This coming week I will be meeting with those concerned about another proposed development near Laurencekirk.

"Worse still, as the Report makes clear, current policy means that we could be missing out on the economic opportunities offered by the new technologies, because of our 'all eggs in one basket' approach to renewables. Scotland has the opportunity to lead the world in bringing to market these new technologies, and creating a new export market, but this will only happen with a radical change in policy.

"The Committee also calls for a new national planning strategy for onshore wind farms, with the Executive working with local authorities to develop local plans and targets. My colleague Murdo Fraser MSP, who sits on the Enterprise Committee last year had a Members Debate in the Parliament which I was happy to support. Conservative calls for a national strategic plan were firmly rejected by the Executive. I am pleased that this cross-party Committee has now unanimously accepted that we were right to make that call, and I hope that the Executive will have a change of heart on this vital issue.

"There have been few issues in rural Scotland in recent years which have been as controversial as the threatened development of large-scale wind farms. I sincerely hope that this Report will mark the beginning of the end of a policy which is both economically questionable, and also potentially hugely damaging to our environment, landscape, and our vital tourism industry."

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