The Observer view on Scotland’s windfarm dilemma | Observer editorial

The government must find a way to proceed with green energy projects while maintaining responsibility for its environment

For anyone who has concerns about our environment and about humanity’s future in a rapidly heating world, the proposed construction of massive offshore windfarms in Scotland’s Firths of Forth and Tay poses a dilemma of some magnitude. On one hand, the four projects – Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo – offer the prospect of generating enough electricity to power 1.4m homes without burning fossil fuel or producing carbon emissions. At the same time, between £314m and £1.2bn could be generated for the Scottish economy. Such prospects – claimed by the Scottish government and local industry – are powerful inducements to proceed with the farms’ construction.

But some environmentalists point to the cost. Every year, the windfarms’ 335 giant turbines could kill thousands of Scotland’s seabirds – puffins, gannets and kittiwakes – when they stray into the giant blades that have been erected in their feeding areas. Hence the RSPB’s dismay at last week’s decision by Scotland’s most senior judge, Lord Carloway, to reverse previous legal bans on the projects. As we report, environmentalists are now locked in opposing camps. One side claims the windfarms will help make Scotland the green energy leader of Europe. Others point out that the country’s nesting seabirds make a crucial contribution to Scotland’s highly lucrative tourism industry. Their slaughter could have serious financial consequences. More importantly, the nation has a duty of care to its wildlife.

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