Mar 18 2011 by Gregor White, Stirling Observer Friday
THE decision to order power bosses back to the drawing board over plans for the Beauly-Denny electricity line has sparked a political war.
Energy minister Jim Mather told Scottish Power to renew discussions with Stirling Council – including the issue of running the line underground.
But Labour MSP Richard Simpson has accused the minister of “kicking the argument over the line into the long grass” and giving “his local SNP MSPs a ‘get out’ clause at election time”.
Now he has been joined in his criticism by Labour councillor John Hendry, who is standing as Holyrood candidate in Stirling constituency.
The Stirling Labour PPC said: “The people of Stirling have the right to expect an honest answer from the SNP government: do they have planning and legal powers to raise expectations that parts of the line can now be undergrounded?.
“The SNP energy minister failed in his original decision to approve the planning application with legal conditions that looked after the best interests of Stirling.
“Bruce Crawford, the business manager for the SNP and currently Stirling’s constituency MSP, is equally culpable for his failure to do the business on Stirling’s behalf at the cabinet table.
“If they have the legal powers to vary the permission the two of them must give unequivocal direction to the developer and clarify the legal and planning position that the Scottish Government can vary the permission they gave to the electricity company to take the line through Stirling on overhead pylons.
“Mr Mather has to explain to Stirling Council, its residents and the power companies whether the Scottish Government has the powers to amend his decision to allow undergrounding.
“If not we can only believe this is a political smokescreen to cover up their negligence.”
He said he would be delighted if new options for the line could be considered.
“It has always been my contention that the western route, similar to that favoured by Scottish National Heritage, was better than the one chosen by the public enquiry reporter,” he said.
“My preference would be to reconsider the Stirling part of the power line being undergrounded alongside the northern carriageway of the M9 motorway and avoid the Wallace Monument route and Eastern Villages.”
However SNP councillor Alasdair MacPherson laid the responsibilty for the current pylon route firmly at Labour’s door.
He said: “In 2005 the Labour-controlled council, which included John Hendry, took a decision to divert the route of the pylons around the Eastern Villages in order to protect the site of the new super village, Durieshill.
“I am pleased that the SNP government minister has refused to accept the mitigation measures put forward by Scottish Power.
“John Hendry should take the opportunity while out campaigning to apologise to the Eastern Villages for his decision to divert the line around Cowie, Fallin and Plean.
“I understand that all of a sudden he is suggesting an alternative route for the line, despite staying silent on this matter for the last six years!
“This is typical double speak of John Hendry, who will stoop to any level for votes.”
Earlier this week it was revealed that Councillor MacPherson has reported John Hendry to the Electoral Commission, claiming he had made “entirely false” claims about coalfield regeneration funding.
In turn Councillor Hendry has reported him to the Standards Commission for Scotland, claiming his comments were a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct.