Anti-windfarm campaigners are calling for a benefactor to champion the cause of Scotland’s natural heritage to prevent massive windfarms scarring its picturesque landscape.
Earlier this month, the NTS contacted its 320,000 members to highlight the John Muir Trust’s (JMT) legal campaign to halt construction of the 67-turbine development – which would cover an area the size of Inverness – in the hills above Loch Ness at Stronelairg, near Fort Augustus.
The case is due to be heard in the Court of Session next month and the JMT’s request for its costs to be capped was rejected.
This means it could be liable for the government’s and SSE Renewable’s costs if the legal action was unsuccessful.
Ms Mavor said: “It is difficult for charities to muster the time and resources needed to challenge well-funded interests.
“Scotland’s natural heritage deserves more in-depth lines of defence.”
She also criticised the Scottish Government for not holding a public inquiry.
She said: “The government has pledged to protect wild land and yet in this instance has ignored the expert advice and objections of its own agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, as well as the Cairngorms National Park Authority.
“It has been customary when these agencies lodge objections in such circumstances to trigger a public local inquiry.
“The Scottish Government’s refusal to do this calls into question the sincerity of their pledge and the fitness for purpose of the safeguards to protect wild land.”
She is calling for assurances that a “fair process” will be followed for every windfarm application in the future.
Anti-windfarm campaigner Denise Davis, of Kiltarlity, said charities had only recently joined the fight against windfarms.
She said: “Previously, it has been left to individuals and small, rural communities to find the funds to fight against these big international companies with bottomless pits of money.
“We need a rich benefactor to take up the cause, along with a handful of lawyers and planning and policy experts, who are willing to give their time free of charge, to form some sort of lobbying pressure group.”
Fellow anti-windfarm campaigner, Lyndsey Ward, of Beauly, said she was glad JMT was challenging the Stronelairg proposal, with the support of NTS.
She said: “Taking on the likes of SSE is massive and it is wrong that individuals, community organisations and charities are left to carry the burden of the cost.
“It’s a real David and Goliath situation.”
A National Trust for Scotland spokeswoman said last night the government should implement effective national strategic planning for large-scale windfarm developments, following full and inclusive consultation.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The interests of Scotland’s natural heritage is not left to charities. The consenting process under the Electricity Act 1989 allows all interested parties to make representations in relation to an application.
“Views of all statutory consultees, non-statutory consultees and other interested parties are considered in full before a decision is taken to ensure a fair and robust process.”
She added that the consent for Stronelairg windfarm was currently the subject of legal proceedings and said it would be inappropriate to comment on that decision.
An SNH spokesman said: “We give advice in relation to onshore and offshore renewables. It is for decision-makers to ultimately make the final choice.”
And a spokeswoman for SSE said: “We are confident in the strength and viability of the Stronelairg proposal and will continue to respond to the legal challenge through the appropriate process.”