Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Ice-cream boss Mackie slams government for handing wind-power development to foreigners

27 March 2011

The head of one of Scotland's best known family food businesses has accused the Forestry Commission and the Scottish Government of "dereliction of duty". Maitland Mackie, chairman of the ice cream and crisp manufacturer Mackie's of Scotland, and a pioneer of wind power at the company's farm in Aberdeenshire, says they are "giving away Scotland's heritage to foreign companies" for failing to secure a potential £300 million in annual revenue for Scotland's communities.

He has written to outgoing Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham, protesting at the "laziness" of the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) for focusing on a relatively small income from wind turbines while neglecting the larger development revenue potential of its publicly owned land. Mackie's protest follows the Scottish Government's announcement in February that energy companies can explore FCS land for renewable energy projects, prompting moves by foreign owned ScottishPower, E.ON, Vattenfall and Fred Olsen Renewables.

In his letter, seen by the Sunday Herald, Mackie writes: "The FCS manages 660,000 hectares, including many of the best wind turbine sites in Scotland,.. [but] wind power development rights have been signed over to Spanish, German and Norwegian companies. "Certainly the FCS will have secured substantive rental agreements,.. [but] these foreign companies will take home at least £30m annual income for every 100 2.5 MW turbines installed. The commission must have more than 1000 good sites available, a potential annual income of at least £300m.

"[As around] £290m of that income comes directly from renewables obligation certificate payments funded by Scotland's electricity consumers, it is extraordinary that a government is comfortable allowing these consumer charges to land directly into the hands of foreign companies". He continued: "This does not need to happen. The FC are big boys, with a £1 billion asset base, and a built in business arm. There is no reason whatsoever for not creating a wind power sector within it, capable of developing and owning their own wind power potential, and doing so with full involvement of the communities local to potential sites. Why they have chickened out beggars belief.

"The chief executive of the Forestry Commission informs me that a principal reason is they are not allowed to borrow. If true, then for goodness sake, change the rules, or encourage the commission to set up subsidiary company structures that circumnavigate them". A spokesman for FCS said: "We firmly believe that the current arrangement we have for wind power development allows us, as the land manager, to use private developers' expertise and capital, while generating market leading returns for the taxpayer and local communities. "Although we have explained this to Mr Mackie we are meeting him to explain this in detail".