The Duke of Buccleuch lobbied the Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, and government officials behind closed doors to fast-track a £1 billion plan for one of Scotland’s biggest-ever wind farms, according to internal documents obtained by the Sunday Herald.
In a “private and confidential” presentation last November, Buccleuch’s chief executive, John Glen, urged Ewing to “debottleneck” the approval process for building 140 wind turbines across a large swathe of moorland east of Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway. He also named the senior civil servant whom he thought should assist with the project.
If it goes ahead, the wind farm will reap multi-million pound profits for Buccleuch, the UK’s largest private landowner. But critics fear that it could damage the prospects for popular, smaller schemes that could bring more community benefits.
The Buccleuch estate has been attacked by politicians, community and environmental groups for using “insider influence” to try and get its way behind the scenes.
Joan McAlpine, the SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, accused Buccleuch of “breathtaking arrogance” and of acting covertly to avoid public scrutiny. “I have serious concerns about the secretive way in which Buccleuch operates,” she said.
“The Sunday Herald’s exposure of such behaviour by Buccleuch will anger many SNP members and supporters who want to see powerful landlords brought to heel.”
Glen denied being secretive and insisted that the estate had “acted in good faith and with the utmost propriety” to promote rural development.