It was with great reluctance in January 2015 that RSPB Scotland took the last resort decision to challenge Scottish Ministers' consents for four large offshore windfarms in the outer firths of the Forth and Tay.
RSPB Scotland had been working with the project developers and Scottish Ministers for several years to try and reduce the harm to seabirds.
Unfortunately, consents were granted when thousands of gannets, puffins, kittiwakes and other seabirds from iconic internationally protected wildlife sites like the Bass Rock and the Isle of May were predicted to be killed every year.
The Government's statutory nature conservation advisors, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, had also raised significant concerns about the windfarms. In these circumstances, RSPB Scotland could not just stand by and let such devastating impacts on Scotland's wildlife happen without making a stand. Regrettably, legal action was our only option.
Judge Lord Stewart ruled in RSPB Scotland's favour concluding that the consents were flawed.
Lloyd Austin, Head of Conservation Policy at RSPB Scotland: "Today's judgments are complex and we will therefore need some time to fully consider their implications, however, RSPB Scotland is encouraged by the decisions of the Court, which have recognised the huge risks from these four offshore windfarms on Scotland's internationally important areas for seabirds. Although RSPB Scotland's decision to take legal action was the right one it is very regrettable that such significant time and effort was needed to reverse the decisions which put so much of Scotland's wildlife at risk. This case demonstrates the critical importance of clear and effective environmental regulation that is properly implemented, as well as the importance of access to justice for NGOs and citizens to be able to ask the courts to scrutinise public decisions. RSPB Scotland is now keen to work with all parties to ensure we focus efforts on delivering much needed renewable energy in a way that does not threaten Scotland's internationally important wildlife.
"RSPB Scotland will continue to robustly resist any projects which threaten Scotland's best places for wildlife. However, we also remain resolutely supportive of the development of renewable energy sources in Scotland. There is an urgent need to decarbonise our energy systems to tackle the causes of climate change which are a major long term threat to wildlife. Our recently launched 2050 energy vision is the result of a major scientific project and recommends a number of ways in which we can meet our energy needs in 2050 while avoiding major harm to wildlife. From this detailed research, it is clear that carefully sited offshore renewables are likely to play a major part in our future energy mix. We will continue to work with developers and all levels of Government to ensure this happens in a way that does not threaten Scotland's fantastic wildlife."
Further detailed background to RSPB Scotland's work on these offshore windfarms is available here.
The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision is available here.
The Court of Session documents can be found here.
Further detailed background to RSPB Scotland's work on these offshore windfarms is available here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/whatwedo/campaigningfornature/casework/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-322162
The RSPB's 2050 Energy Vision is available here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/whatwedo/projects/details.aspx?id=350939