I have been particularly bemused by the claim by Jim Mather, restated today, that the Government could not force the Beauly-Denny line to be undergrounded.
At the time that the various windfarm applications came to the Council, we were clearly told that the Council could impose any conditions they saw fit, and that the developers could either challenge them as being unreasonable, or accept them (or walk away). For that reasons a large number of mitigation measures were insisted upon, including undergrounding part of the overhead lines, especially around Barvas.
We were also clearly told that when the application went to Government for a decision, then Government could still impose, modify or remove any conditions that they saw fit. This was stated at the public meetings by the Civil Servants and made clear to us in discussions with the Government.
Obviously, they don't want to do that if they can, and it was clear that they would either be major decisions - for instance a big block of turbines not being allowed - or trivial matters - such as amending membership of one of the working groups.
It appears that there has been a fundamental change in the interpretation of the Planning Legislation leaving the Government (a their own desire) with a simple Yes/No option, and all the power to decide upon terms and conditions with the Councils.
Is this better?
No, I don't think so, as the ability of the Government to satisfy wider strategic objectives or simply ensure consistency by amending individual applications can only be to the ultimate benefit of the process.
What we have here is a piecemeal approach of dealing with each issue as it arises, irrespective of how it fits into the bigger picture, and that doesn't benefit anyone.
It is all very cackhanded and bumbling, and does nothing to dispel the impression of a very difficult decision avoided, and the easiest decision taken without sensible justification.