On Forargyll Now: Why have the Tories got it in for Onshore Wind?

Having heard about an article in the Oban Times, and reading the outraged comments on facebook and elsewhere, I felt moved to write something a little more detailed about the place of onshore wind farms in humanity’s efforts to combat global warming. The piece then morphed of course, but the result is certainly provoking debate.

You can find it here.


The Hydrocarbon Diet: Vote for parties who aren’t going to give up and go for a curry

In the Guardian today:

In a recent private conversation under the Chatham House rule, one of the world’s most senior industry leaders, who is considered to be at the more moderate end of the spectrum, insisted that we are going to burn all the world’s hydrocarbons despite the consequences.

His reasoning is that a growing population in the developing world needs energy to raise living standards, that renewables will not become a dominant energy source till the end of the century and that politicians don’t have the courage or power to limit production.

Reminds me of the recent Horizon special “What’s the Right Diet for You?” whereby two groups of dieters were given slices of cake at 700 calories per slice. One group were told that this was a special dieter’s cake with c. 200 cals. The others were told the truth. After the cake-baking session each group were left with a bunch of cake and a cup of tea. What happened? The ones who had been told the truth ate 8 times more cake than the ones who’d been lied to. The lesson being that if you think you are still on track for the right number of calories in your day, you won’t go on to really bust the limit like the others did. As one of the group who had been told the truth said, “We’d all planned to go for a curry this evening as we’d stuffed our chances of keeping to our limit …”

Seems to me our politicians govern our appetite for hydrocarbons with legislation, and they’re being told the truth. What happens when, as is certain now, we pass 400 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere. In this analysis, they’re just going to metaphorically chuck their hands up and say, “Right, might as well go for a curry chaps, we’ve really blown it now …”

The problem is, that although this is based on pop psychology, I can see it happening all too readily. All these tipping points and limits only give us targets we’re going to miss on the conventional diet of boo-yah politics and industry misinformation.

Is there any hope?

Well, if you want hope you need to vote for parties who aren’t going to give up and go for a curry (allow fracking for example), you’ve got to vote for parties who are going to stick to the diet whatever happens, and make sure the others do too – and just like those who are on a weightloss diet, we do know who the best to parties  are to put our a break on our collective appetite, don’t we?

(Picture from the Guardian article and is by Murdo Macleod/Murdo Macleod)

We must act on Global Warming: Climate Change has already made the world three times more dangerous.

If you ever wondered why I am such an enthusiastic supporter of CGDT’s Greener ColGlen programme these stats give you the answer. They are all since the 1970s, my lifetime, from the World Meteorological Organisation report (here). The droughts of the 1980s are the outlier in these stats, or possibly the first major effect of global warming before we became a significantly wetter planet.

Increase in Global Threat

It has always been my view that Climate Change Denial is a betrayal of the planet and the human race and the more political mileage these lobby groups get the closer we get to the worst case scenarios as articulated by Mark Lynas in his book Six Degrees (ISBN: 9780007209057) – which I thoroughly recommend you read (or if you want to cut to the chase here’s a summary of his conclusions).

The fact that the world has become three times more dangerous since the seventies terrifies me, even though I live on the temperate West Coast of Scotland.

from the Guardian.

Insightful Seminar on Achieving Impact with Community Benefit in Argyll & Bute from Foundation Scotland

Foundation Scotland held the third of their regional seminars on achieving impact with funds derived from wind farms in Kilmory Castle today, and as chair of CGDT I was privileged to be asked to make a presentation on how Community Benefit was managed in our community.

The whole event was extremely well facilitated by James Hilder, who provided a logical, fair and humorous context for the various presentations and discussions on the day. I’d had misgivings about spending another day away from work, but in this case I took away several highly valuable insights about the disbursement of Community Benefit and also, of course, on Community Development.

The first came from James himself with regard to maintaining community support for development organisations – he recommended a social audit whereby the organisation commissions an independent study on what affect it has had on the community – how far it has travelled towards achieving its objectives.

Another was the centrality of a community development or action plan in capturing a community’s aspirations over time – that this has to be a living document, and should be revised constantly. Not only that, but that Windfarm Trusts ought to re-examine their funding criterias regularly to ensure they align with the community action plan. Yes, these are obvious points, but sometimes in the mix of projects and endeavour, it is easy to miss out on the essential, foundation tasks.

Further, that there are grant-giving wind farm trusts which make their decisions in open session, rather than behind closed doors. This for me is the ultimate in transparency and I can see how this might usefully counteract accusations of cronyism in small, isolated communities.

And lastly, that the issues current here (like woeful broadband, reducing school rolls, ageing population and decreasing housing stock) are current everywhere, sometimes writ even larger – for example West Kintyre is even longer and more etiolated than ColGlen – and they get less money in total from four wind farms than our community for one.


I’ve included my notes from the presentation below – somewhat different from the SPREEE presentation at Holyrood in March given the context, but essentially the same story.

And apparently there’ll be a film later as well as the full presentation online. I’ll link to it when its published.

Continue reading Insightful Seminar on Achieving Impact with Community Benefit in Argyll & Bute from Foundation Scotland

#CommunityBenefit: How not to consult with a community on a small renewables project

Last night I witnessed what I can only described as the worst cast of community consultation I have ever seen.

A landowner, who had already submitted their planning application for a small renewables scheme, was invited by the relevant community council to their normal monthly meeting to discuss their [the landowner’s] plans. The Community Council had been unaware that there was an application submitted until after the statutory consultation period had passed. It was therefore concerned to, first assess what the community’s view on the project was and second, to understand why the landowner had not been proactive and consulted with the CC months prior to the application being submitted, as would have been good practice, diligent and good manners.

The landowner sent two employees to the meeting, who proceeded to give the Community Council and all those assembled that the reason that the community hadn’t been consulted in person prior to the submission of the planning application was that there was no requirement for the landowner to do so, and that they, the landowner had fulfilled all their statutory obligations. They said that the planning materials had been posted in the usual places, and if the Community Council hadn’t received the application in time to look at it prior to submission that was (and I am paraphrasing a little) the Council’s fault.

Not only that, on further questioning, the landowner then implied that the community should support the application because of all the advantageous leases and permissions the landowner gave to the community, and that there was no way of separating the issue of the planning application and these other relationships in the community.

The Community Council chair did sterling work to insist that the landowner brought back the developers themselves to make a presentation to the community, to negotiate appropriate community benefit and to start a more consensual approach to the project.

Personally, I was appalled by the lack of foresight, the arrogance and the obvious patrician attitude that the landowner could behave in this way and not be brought to account. Unluckily for the landowner, the CC chair had already received an undertaking from the local planning department that until the consultation had taken place, no determination on the application would be made.

I suspect that the consultation meeting will be very well attended when the time comes.

Landowners like this harm the cause of renewables, and therefore the battle against global warming.

Presentation for the Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Community Benefit from the Inside

CSDS_at_Holyrood{This presentation was given by me (right) alongside these images}


This is mid-Glendaruel from the community owned forest – or rather one of our harvested coups. Gives you an idea of how glorious the place is. And here it is on the map.


Colintraive and Glendaruel is a community of 350 people. We measure 28 miles Continue reading Presentation for the Cross Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Community Benefit from the Inside

What do you think about Community Benefit and its effect on ColGlen?

spreeeI am giving a presentation to SPREEE, the Cross Party Group on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency on Community Benefit from Windfarms from the inside. I’ve got info and feedback from the Windfarm Trust, but it would be great to have comments from community members in ColGlen – positive and / or negative – both are welcome!

Community Benefit from Renewables from the Inside

As chair of the Colintraive and Glendaruel Development Trust, an organisation which has benefitted from a small income or community benefit from the Cruach Mhor Windfarm Trust over the last decade, I have been asked to give a couple of presentations on our community’s experience. Of course I can provide a lot of feedback about what CBR has meant to our community, but I am also interested in sign-posting the experiences of other communities with regard to Community Benefit from Renewables so if anyone wishes to contribute, please leave a comment below!