By Martin Kelly
Donald Trump has arrived in Scotland on the same day as a new opinion poll conducted by YouGov indicated overwhelming support amongst Scots for the Scottish Government’s wind farm projects.
The poll of 1,014 people in Scotland, carried out on behalf of Scottish Renewables, showed 72% backed windfarms and only 7% were ‘strongly against’.
The survey reinforces a similar poll last week that showed 67% of people in the UK support wind power.
The Scottish survey results follow a series of high profile attacks on Scotland’s wind farm drive by the controversial US tycoon.
Mr Trump arrived in Scotland on Sunday afternoon and is scheduled to give evidence on Wednesday to a Holyrood Committee set up to look at the Scottish Government’s renewables plans.
Mr Trump’s attendance at Holyrood coincides with a planned protest by anti-windfarm group Communities Against Turbines Scotland, who have been backed by the US tycoon. However the group have issued a statement denying their protest was being held in support of Mr Trump.
Welcoming the new poll, SNP MSP Rob Gibson claimed it showed that Scots agreed that harnessing the power of wind was key to Scotland’s future energy policy.
Mr Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said:
“In fact, when you take this poll into account with last week’s Ipsos Mori poll for RenewablesUK, the message from people across the UK is exactly the same – wind power is the way forward.
“It is encouraging to see as many as 72% of people polled in Scotland support wind power development as part of a mix of renewables and conventional forms of electricity.
“Scotland has vast renewables resources – demonstrated by the fact we produce a quarter of Europe’s tidal and offshore wind power and 10% of its wave power.”
A UK wide poll conducted last week showed that across the UK, support for wind generated energy stood at 67 per cent, with just 8 per cent of people opposing wind farms.
The poll also showed that only 6 per cent of respondents found wind farms ‘ugly’. RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said it proved that claims most people found the turbines unsightly were a myth.
Commenting on the Scottish poll, Scottish Renewables Chief Executive Niall Stuart said: “This lays to rest once and for all the idea that people of Scotland do not support wind power.
“The facts speak for themselves and we hope the committee will listen to the majority of Scots, who have made their opinions very clear on the matter. We believe the public understand the benefits of both wind power and renewable energy.”
The debate over Scotland’s renewable potential intensified last week when South Korean Company Doosan officially announced that it was shelving plans for a £170 million investment in Scotland’s offshore wind sector.
However the news was tempered after the company, which already employs 1300 people in Scotland, re-affirmed its plans for further investment in Scotland.
Official estimates suggest that the offshore sector alone could bring 28,000 jobs to Scotland. In a letter responding to Donald Trump’s attacks, First Minister Alex Salmond said that offshore wind was worth £30bn to Scotland’s economy.
The First Minister wrote: “”It is my belief that Scotland’s great cities and ports are ideally placed to become a key hub for the rapidly growing multi-billion pound offshore renewables industry.
“Our waters are estimated to have as much as a quarter of Europe’s potential offshore wind energy, and we are perfectly positioned to develop the technology that will power this renewables revolution.”
Mr Gibson claimed that Scotland was already seeing the benefit of renewables with thousands of jobs being created, “most recently Gamesa’s announcement of 800 jobs and €150 million of investment in Edinburgh.”
The MSP also highlighted leaked documents that show the UK Government is planning to subsidise the nuclear industry through increases in household electricity bills.
The plans face opposition from within the EU and industry giants Scottish and Southern Energy warned that it could lead to “massive uncertainty” that could harm the renewables sector.
The SNP MSP added:
“Nuclear power is simply not the answer to our energy needs. The Tory-LibDem coalition must listen to these polls that clearly show renewable energy is the way forward to provide a clean green future and true energy security.”
However UK PM David Cameron has attacked the Scottish Government’s wind farm drive. Speaking last week the Conservative leader said:
“We shouldn’t be plonking windfarms all over communities that do not want them,
“The people who live in a community know what’s best for their community and we should give them a greater say.”