Conservationists have warned thousands of Scotland’s seabirds will be put under threat after ministers won a court battle to give the go-ahead for four massive offshore windfarms.
The RSPB said it was “bitterly disappointed” over the decision from the Inner House of the Court of Session, with the charity having won an earlier appeal against the projects.
The most advanced of the schemes is the £2 billion 450MW Neart Na Gaoithe wind farm in the Firth of Forth estuary, which already holds a power generation contract.
The others given the green flag are the 784MW Inch Cape turbines 15 km off the Angus coastline, and two Seagreen arrays near the Isle of May.
The RSPB had objected to the plans on environmental grounds, and believe they could have a devastating impact on vulnerable wildlife.
Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland said the charity backed renewable power, but not at any cost.
He said: “Combined, these huge projects threaten to kill thousands of Scotland’s internationally protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes.
“These could be amongst the most deadly windfarms for birds anywhere in the world.
“It was with great reluctance and as a last resort, but in these circumstances, it was clear that RSPB Scotland had to make a stand. Given the huge threat to Scotland’s wildlife from these projects, we do not regret our actions so far.”
Mainstream Renewable Power, the firm behind the Neart Na Gaoithe plan, intends to build 64 turbines rising 100 metres from the sea bed.
The firm says that more than £540 million will be invested in Scotland during the construction phase, with a further £610m during the lifetime of the windfarm.
More than 500 jobs will be created during construction, with 100 permanent posts once the project is complete.
David Sweenie, Mainstream’s Offshore Manager for Scotland, insisted the firm would work closely to minimise the impact on the environment. He said: “This £2bn project is capable of supplying all the homes in a city the size of Edinburgh with clean energy.
“It will create over 500 jobs during construction and over 100 permanent jobs once operational.
“As a nationally significant infrastructure project, Neart na Gaoithe will help Scotland and the UK meet their climate and energy goals, and develop a world-leading offshore wind sector.”
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, said: “The Scottish Government remains strongly committed to the development of offshore wind energy.
“Clearly, protecting Scotland’s marine environment is of paramount importance and at the heart of the Scottish Government’s approach to offshore renewable energy applications, and we are keen to work constructively with both the RSPB and renewable energy developers to ensure the sector has a bright future in Scotland.”