Christopher Moran, a self-made financier from London with links to the Conservative Party, owns the 40,000-acre Glenfiddich and Cabrach estate on Speyside south of Dufftown. A plan to build 59 wind turbines on the estate is due to be considered by Moray Council at the end of this month.
Moran has been reprimanded for business misconduct in the past, and his estate has one of the worst records for wildlife crime in Scotland. Yet now he stands to make more than £20 million from the wind farm over the next 25 years.
The revelation has provoked an angry response from national campaign groups and local residents. They accuse Moran of having “his nose deep in the renewables trough” and of neglecting his estate.
Moran hit the headlines in 2006, when it was reported that he was one of the donors to whom the Conservative party had returned millions of pounds in an attempt to keep their identities secret.
It emerged that in 1982 he was expelled from Lloyd’s of London for “discreditable conduct”. Four years later he was censured by the Stock Exchange, and in 1992 he was fined $2 million in New York for insider dealing.
Yet, according to the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List, he is now worth £237 million, £48 million more than in 2007. As well as the Glenfiddich estate, he owns Crosby Hall, a 30-bedroom Tudor mansion on the banks of the Thames in Chelsea.
According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), between 1992 and 2006 Glenfiddich was the scene of numerous breaches of the laws aimed at protecting wildlife.
In just five months during 1998 a joint investigation by the RSPB and the police recorded ten incidents on the estate. The estate’s gamekeepers were successfully prosecuted for wildlife crime offences in 1998 and again in 2006.
The wind farm, known as Dorenell, is being developed by the Dutch company, Infinergy. It has been opposed by a powerful coalition of local businesses, including two whisky distilleries, William Grant & Sons and Glenfarclas, as well as the famed shortbread makers, Walkers of Aberlour.
The Cairngorm National Park Authority has also strongly objected to the development, which is 2.2 kilometres outside the park boundary. It is concerned about the wind farm’s impact on the landscape and the dangers it poses to eagles.
“Christopher Moran and wind farms deserve each other,” said Dave Morris, the director of Ramblers Scotland, which campaigns against large onshore wind developments.
“Too many landowners have their noses deep into the renewables trough and their backsides pointing towards Scotland’s wild and magnificent scenery,” he said.
“Getting planning approval for a massive wind farm it is like winning the lottery, every year. The public money available from renewable energy developments keeps landowners like Moran in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.”
Morris argued that there were far better ways of spending money to save the environment. But he added: “Ministers continue to touch their forelocks to Scotland’s landowners and keep the gravy train speeding down the track.”
Robert McHugh, who runs a holiday cottage business near to the proposed wind farm, accused Moran of having neglected the buildings on his estate. The wind farm would not attract people to the area, he claimed.
“I don't think that the landowner really cares that much,” McHugh said. “Mr Moran, in my opinion, seems to have forgotten, or chosen to ignore, the fact that we do not own the land, we are merely custodians for future generations.”
Moran did not response to requests for comments last week. But the developer, Infinergy, argued that the Dorenell wind farm would bring substantial benefits to the local community.
The company has promised to set up a fund to provide £354,000 a year for local projects over 25 years. It will also establish a visitor centre and improve access to the estate, it said.
“The wind farm and other initiatives will provide up to six full-time jobs in the immediate vicinity and the estate has agreed to release and upgrade a number of houses to accommodate these workers locally,” said Infinergy’s managing director, Esbjorn Wilmar.
“The wind farm will create many opportunities to enhance local tourism, strengthen the local community and economy and improve wildlife habitats on the wider Glenfiddich estate. The total value of the benefits over the anticipated 25-year lifetime of the project will be over £10 million.”