Over 150 people attended a public meeting on 15th June to discuss the likely impacts of the proposed offshore wind farm at Skerryvore. Tish MacKinnon, chair of the Tiree Community Development Trust, led the meeting and Lloyd Gudgeon, the Trust’s Manager, made a short presentation. Ralph Thornton and Morna Cannon from the developers Scottish Power Renewables were on hand to answer questions, as were Councillors Len Scoular and Donald McIntosh, along with several senior officials from the Planning Department, HIE, the Health Board and the Police.
The wind farm will be huge, costing £6 billion to build (at todays prices) and estimated to provide about 20% of Scotland’s electricity needs. The impact it will have on Tiree will also be huge, with an influx of people coming to work for the wind farm, new housing, much wider roads and bigger harbour and more jobs. It will also bring helicopters, noise and disruption to what has been up to now a peaceful place.
The meeting heard how plans to site between 300 and 500 giant wind turbines (some up to three times the height of Skerryvore) between the land and the lighthouse would require major structural alterations to the Island including a building the size of a football pitch to house the equipment to convert the electricity when it comes ashore and up to 4,000 square meters of office buildings. In answer to a question from a resident, Ralph Thornton admitted that there was no way the islanders could stop the wind farm from going ahead if consent is given by the Scottish Energy Minister.
Opinions of locals is divided, some feel that the development will bring only good to the island – upgrading to health, housing, education and policing and the potential creation of jobs and leisure amenities along with a possible community financial bonus being amongst the improvements on offer. Others feel that the necessary changes to the Island “will destroy our whole way of life, this will be the end of Tiree as we know it” and that “our gaelic culture will suffer and we will lose our peaceful existence. No doubt this scheme will be railroaded through in the guise of national necessity, no doubt some people will get very rich out of this construction at the expense of others”.
Andrew Montgomery, factor to the Duke of Argyll, told the meeting;
“ No one could, in their wildest dreams imagine the impact this development will make on Tiree. Argyll Estates has a duty of care for the people of Tiree and the island and having attended this meeting we now have serious concerns about the plans which will affect the way of life here”
One resident pointed out that “whether we want it or not if the wind farm goes ahead we must get a decent rate of return on our investment. Our whole way of life will change, and it must not be allowed to change for the worse .”
It was also revealed that two other off shore energy installations are being proposed for the seas around Tiree – one a wave power installation, the other a further wind turbine site. This could mean the contract workers and maintenance crews for all three sites could be based here, turning Tiree into a huge terminal for renewable energy possibly changing the very essence of Tiree beyond all recognition and repair.
The meeting finished with a renewed mandate being given to the Trust to continue working on behalf of the community to ensure we do not suffer unduly from this development, should it go ahead.
Background documents and links to relevant sites can be found on the Trusts website; www.tireetrust.org.uk