Bird protection charity RSPB Scotland has left the Scottish renewables sector in a flap after instructing new legal proceedings to block three major wind farms off the coast of Angus and Fife.
The group has now applied directly to the UK Supreme Court for leave to appeal decision made at the Court of Session that backed Scottish Ministers in their granting of planning approvals for the proposed Neart Na Gaoithe (NNG), Inch Cape and Seagreen arrays.
The move came as a new industry pressure group emerged and called for an end to all legal proceedings
A total of 29 firms – including Fife’s BiFab and Montrose Marine Services– have put their names to an open letter asking RSPB Scotland to respect the decision of the Scottish courts and allow construction of NNG to go ahead.
Developer Mainstream Renewables hopes to begin building the £2 billion scheme next year.
The project – along with the larger but less advanced Inch Cape and Seagreen schemes – received approval from Scottish Ministers in 2014, but has been in limbo while the various legal wranglings played out in the Scottish Courts.
There will now be a further delay as RSPB Scotland takes its case directly to the UK Supreme Court.
“RSPB Scotland has not taken this decision lightly, however our concerns with the manner in which Scottish Ministers’ took their decisions in 2014 remain undiminished,” director Anne McCall said.
“Additionally, the issues of the case and the recent Inner House judgement extend beyond simply the impacts of these developments on important seabird populations.
“Therefore due to the implications of this latest decision for many aspects of our work we felt we had no choice but to apply to the Supreme Court.
“We are hopeful that our application is successful and that we are granted leave to appeal so these important issues of public interest can be considered in detail by the Supreme Court.”
Among the signatories to the open letter is Fife heavy engineering firm Burntisland Fabrications.
BiFab’s 1,200 staff are involved in the build out of the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in the Outer Moray Firth and it hopes to gain new work from NNG.
Ian Scrimger, business development manager for Fife-based BiFab, said: “The NNG project is of national significance to BiFab and cannot be underestimated as on completion of the current Beatrice project it would allow us to retain the skilled operational personnel within the business.
“Winning a part of the NNG project for manufacture of jackets in Fife would not just bring economical impact for further investment in the regeneration of Fife Energy Park and the immediate east coast area, but the whole of Scotland.
“This project is at an advanced stage of development in comparison to other proposed developments in Scotland and the UK and it is seen to bridge the gap for completion of existing contracts and the start of new developments currently under consideration within the CfD process.”
Global Energy Group, which operates Nigg Energy Park (NEP) near Inverness, is also keen to pick up logistics and fabrication work for NNG.
“The opportunities for jobs for the Neart project are really two-fold,” NEP general manager Rory Gunn said.
“The first one is on the harbour, logistics, port type activities and that would result in probably around 100 jobs.
“The other side of it is the fabrication opportunity that Neart represents and that could be up to several hundred jobs for pipe fitting, welding and fabrication.”
Mainstream hope to have NNG – which will be capable of producing enough electricity to power Edinburgh – fully operational by 2021.