07/12/2011 Newsnight Scotland


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tried. The banks have to take hard fiscal choices and let others worry


Tonight on Newsnight Scotland, the Government announces it will


announce -- it will allow a return Denny-to-Beauly power line to be


built. Is the one approved now it any different to the one proposed


earlier this year? And are these projects all


imperative to save the environment or is there a backlash from people


who believe they are destroying the environment in the process?


The Government has given its final response in the mitigation of the


Denny-to-Beauly power line. What does that mean? You have to choose


your preferred version of the narrative. Everyone knows that it


depends on the power getting delivered South.


The Highlands - you might not want to live with them but you do not


function as a nation without them. The Government says that the Denny-


to-Beauly power line is the more significant project their


generation. It will allow the renewable energy in the north of


Scotland to be harnessed. But it underlines issues that have faced


the SNP in government. Protesters in Stirling say their 25 metre


pylons currently would be some -- would be replaced by those much


higher, almost as high as the Wallace Monument. While none of the


new collectors are to be buried underground, an extra section will


be. Today, the Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, explained by


underground in was not an option. - - explained why sticking the power


lines underground was not an option. I do not find it appropriate to


seek approval for spending �63 million of electricity consumers'


money, especially at a time of economic difficulty. It is bad news


for campaigners against the pylons, who want their lines buried


underground. The minister offered some general compensation, with all


apply once coming down. The us will carry a cost of �12.9 million for


seven kilometres of having power once removed. This represents a


more efficient use of money than the �20.7 million for a section of


all the 1.6 kilometres of the �263 million for a sector of 15


kilometres. I have asked that wider landscape enhancement is ensued --


has pursued. Consultants have recommended a wider landscape to


offer other Bannister -- to other benefits. Opponents remained


unimpressed. The announcement today is a slap in the face for the


people of Stirling. The additional schemes proposed to mitigate amount


to be AV -- commented very little given the impact on locals and the


Wallace Monument. It was in January last year that the last SNP energy


minister kicked the Denny-to-Beauly power line decision into the long


grass by asking the Scottish government to mitigate the impact.


There is no required to under ground any of it? We cannot do that.


We can mitigate. Today, he continued his line of questioning.


Given that he rejected recommendations but required to 16


kilometres of existing wind to be under grounded, does that justify


the two years further of reaching the decision by his very modest


requirement? The Liberal Democrats smelled a rat with the timing of


the decision and the usefulness of the delay. Will he acknowledged


there is a strong suspicion cobble notably in the Stirling area, that


it is more the timing of last May's election that is to do with the


announcement rather than the cost of putting the lines underground.


In rural areas, pions can be very contentious. But in a country where


the cold bites and energy builds can sting, this debate is heated.


The Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing came in the earlier. I asked him


how it would defer to day from what was proposed by Scottish Power


earlier in the year. The proposals we have approved a different in


several respects. Firstly, we have approved the placing of the lines


underground of another line. That extends seven kilometres in length


across open countryside. That will be placed under ground. That


followed a proposal initially put forward by the reporter and backed


up by our independent landscape consultants. But beyond that, which


does not involve putting any of theUnderground, is there anything


involved here other than painting a few to was green and planting a few


hedges? The underground nature of the liner will involve a cost, so


it is not something we will say is cosmetic. We are proposing agree


network of landscape improvements in the hall area and that will


involve a significant investment. - - the whole area. I have written to


the leader of Stirling Council for a meeting before the end of the


year to take this forward. This will improve the landscape,


particularly of the areas which are most effective -- most affected. It


will create a new path networks and woodland habitat and provide


opportunities for local residents to benefit. So if you live in the


area, you may well welcome the fact that some pylons will be put


underground but none of the new big ones will be, but beyond that,


what? A path, some hedges, and a couple of car-parks? Why is that


going to make you think that, in any way, that makes a difference?


have already explained to ways in which we have provided additional


mitigation. As far as the main line is concerned, we have concluded


that to spend between five and 15 times more than is required, at a


cost of up to �263 million, which would have to be paid for by you


and I, through their electricity bills, that cannot be justified.


Secondly, were we to have approved the placing of the lines


underground, the delay is that would have resulted would have


created two to three years to lay and would have hampered and


jeopardised their jobs, jobs which we believe will come in their tens


of thousands for young people in Scotland. That surely is a prize


that we cannot afford to jeopardise. Anyone that says we can afford that


delay, I am afraid it is an argument that is false and reckless.


Did you explore ways to explore -- to use public money to police these


lines underground so that the cost- benefit analysis would be changed?


We did not consider using taxpayers' money because the


insistent -- the system for improvements to the ground if men


the improvements being met by the electricity bill payer. But you


could ever explored ways of using public money to do that. A we do


not consider it prudent to spend additional amounts of public money


where it is neither appropriate nor necessary. But yesterday, Alex Neil


proposed �60 billion spending on dozens and dozens of projects,


stretching out into infinity. It is a question of priorities. It is


reasonable for you to say that you have a lot of these proposals, we


just do not really care about the Stirling mitigation measures. In


that case, just be honest about it. The proposals do not stretch into


infinity. The question here is not how placing the lines underground


would be funded, it is whether it is appropriate. When the cost of


overhead lines is between 5 and 15 times less expensive. Surely,


especially at a time of economic difficulty, the public expect


politicians not to pile extra costs on two schemes. These costs can be


avoided. Was there any reason to delay all this? You candidates were


being criticised. Was there a case for kicking us into touch? When he


kicked it into touch, he said he wanted all at options examined,


including putting the lines underground. You are saying that he


did not know all these basic economic truths that you're telling


me about. There was no way you could justified spending public


money on it. Have you just discovered this in the last few


By finger question presupposes Underground was the only option. It


was considered. Had it not been for the fact that we underwent this


process of consultation with nine meetings, 23 options considered in


detail and are thereafter, following the formal letter we


received in August, a further period of consultation with the


council, which extended to 45 days. And I met with the council and


concerned individuals inspecting the site. Had we not had that


process, we would not have seen the additional measures to wit -- which


I have announced. I think that justifies the process would we have


gone through, and it will result in additional mitigation measures


which will leave a lasting legacy and benefit I believe for the


people of Stirling. I am joined now by the policy


director of the John Muir Trust, Helen McDade, add the commentator


at Ian Macwhirter. I know this is an issue to which


you took an interest. Can I have your reaction to today's


announcement? I suppose it is lack of surprise.


What we have discovered, amongst other things, is we have a very


terrible process for deciding large infrastructure is she's, and we


need a national energy plan. It is no surprise, the decision. I did


not think the economic case stood up at inquiry and I did not think


the Scottish Government could risk going back to Ofgem to look at this


again with further cost. When you mean the economic concern,


you mean... For the Beauly-Denny line. Because


the rest was marginal, they could not risk going back to Ofgem to


look at it again with extra cost. They may have said, could we do


this with an undersea cable, and the answer was certainly, yes.


Ian Macwhirter, what do you make of this? What do you make of these


people who don't like the prospect of these pilots? Do they have good


bite the bullet in the greater interest of renewables?


This has been a very traumatic experience for the environment of a


whole. I have seen it ramblers and friends


of the Earth having stand-up rows about the Beauly-Denny line. They


are being very careful not to discuss this in public too much now


that the final decision has been made. The City of Boston in America


spent $8 billion putting a section of motorway underground because it


was spoiling the view. Hang on a minute, that became


famous as one of the greatest pieces of squandering of public


money in US history. Yes, it was a lot of money and they


went ahead with it. What I am saying is, under the present


circumstances here in Scotland, the present financial constraints, this


was not going to happen. The real scandal here is the many, many


years it has taken to get this line up and running and we can afford to


spend the best part of a decade on an infrastructure problem like this.


I totally disagree. The real scandal is this was not the right


project to go ahead and we don't have a national strategy to look at


this. You say we do not have a national


strategy, but if we did have, it is pretty much inconceivable it would


have to incorporate some way of getting electricity generated by


renewables in the Highlands and Islands down south.


Absolutely that is why subs C/ cables but to be discussed at


inquiry. We could not, I was told that undersea cables were not


advanced enough. Now we're told, we need them as well. Actually,


succeed tables are not so much expensive, Underground is more


expensive and is a good way to move power over a long distance. --


undersea cables. I am curious about


environmentalists having stand-up fights about the Beauly-Denny line.


As the green agenda has become more mainstream and things are being


built to carry it out, you are seeing these disagreements, and the


other obvious question is that there is a big split in the green


movement over whether to build nuclear power stations because a


lot of their instincts are, we have been against nuclear power for


years, and other people in the agreement are saying, this is the


easiest way to stop carbon emissions.


The most obvious comparison is with onshore wind farms. They did create


a blight on the environment and the physical environment on the view,


they do damage it. Nevertheless, at the moment this is the only


economically viable way of using Scotland's prodigious reserves of


renewable energy. Certainly, the Beauly-Denny line under present


technology is the only way of making a reality out of Scotland's


extremely valuable resources of green energy. Things change, and


the one good thing about pylons is they can be removed relatively


easily. They do not have a huge long-term impact on the environment.


Once undersea cables become necessary and technology developed,


perhaps alternatives will be found. If you look at one of our cities,


only 20 or 30 years ago you would have found a network of all sorts


of electrical cables and telephone lines wedding across the street.


Most of these have gone. Hopefully in future years this will goal, too.


For the time being, there is no end up -- alternative, if you want


energy, you have to have pilots. Do you think more generally there


is a danger of a public backlash against a lot of these things, not


just the pilot's, but like onshore wind farms, perhaps even offshore


wind. Yes, I think there is a major issue


there. One of the reasons is, people do not trust what they have


been told. It is absolutely not true that the economic way to go


about this is the way we are doing it. The best way to use public


money is on energy conservation, and we should be using that public


money taken from people through their energy bills into that and


research and development. For instance, carbon capture and


storage, which was cancelled. That is where public money should be


going. Public money should not be going into onshore wind, which is


really quite ineffective. It is not true that economically this stacks


up. Our economic policy is being led by energy companies, who are


subsidy junkies. There are thought the next


generation of power will be offshore wind. Do you think that is


I think this is not a religion, and you have a favoured thing. For


older people it is to, we want wind-powered, we want nuclear, it


saves our landscape. Obviously the John Muir Trust is a landscape and


natural heritage organisation and we are concerned about onshore wind.


It is easy for my point of you to see onshore wind would be --


offshore wind would be better. I have to say, the country has to go


back and look at the figures for this. We're spending public money


in a way that is not justified. This is still experimental, we are


really taking a huge leap in the dark here. To come back to


something Fergus Ewing said, underground cables will happen in


the English national parks and in London for the Olympics. People are


spending that money, and it was not supported money because it was paid


for the - - -- because it was paid for by the UK.


Do you think there is something of a public backlash about these


projects? Are the public saying we are not sure whether we want to see


windmills in the countryside? There is certainly a backlash, and


certainly concern about the economic viability of windmills and


wind farms, onshore wind. At the moment you have a problem. The


green energy resources are in the remote parts of the country, the


cities are in the south. You have to get the power to play it is


needed, and that needs transmission lines.


Thank you very much indeed. Thank you very much indeed.


Quickly, tomorrow's front pages. The Herald talks about the 90 mph


hurricane forecast for tomorrow afternoon. The Scotsman, Mike


Russell those to act on schools Russell those to act on schools


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