Highland Council chiefs are battling for a larger share of community cash from a £2.6billion offshore windfarm – branding the current offer “peanuts”.
Local authority leader Margaret Davidson has written to Scottish Government ministers asking them to intervene to boost the “derisory” settlement from the Beatrice project.
Work on the 84 turbine windfarm in the Outer Moray Firth is getting under way and it is expected to produce enough power for 450,000 homes.
A £6million Beatrice fund has been set up for community projects over the 25-year lifespan of the project, with £4million going to the Highlands and £2million to Moray.
Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl), an international consortium which includes SSE, also agreed to pay £28million over the period to the Coastal Communities Fund, which could then be distributed back to Highland projects, although its future is subject to a Scottish Government consultation on devolved Crown Estate powers.
But Mrs Davidson and other local councillors have been left furious by what they claim is an unfair return to Highland communities.
The Highland Council leader revealed last night that she had been lobbying the Scottish Government over the issue.
“It’s peanuts. I’ve already written to ministers twice to try to get their support,” she said.
“The turbines are going to be money-making machines for decades and decades. I think the money, £4million, is derisory.
“The request to ministers was to ensure the development paid the same rate as onshore wind, which is £5,000 per MW. They said ‘no’.
“I just think it’s a shame. It’s a missed opportunity for an area of the Highlands that needs investment.”
East Sutherland and Edderton councillor Deirdre Mackay said the fund worked out at £160,000 a year for the Highlands, when the onshore wind ratio would have resulted in £3million a year.
She said: “We need to be very clear however that if large companies stand to make vast amounts of money from our environment then it’s only fair that they pay a fair price for it.”
A spokeswoman for Bowl said: “In establishing a community benefit package for the Beatrice offshore wind farm, Bowl has followed the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles For Community Benefits From Offshore Renewables.
“It is misleading and wrong to make any comparison between this community fund and those offered by developers of onshore wind farms as there are significant differences in developing and constructing onshore and offshore sites.
“The Bowl community fund, which is part of a wider package of benefits associated with the project, takes account of these differences.”