May 16 2013
Another posting on the subject of the interconnector. This morning, I grabbed a copy of the Press and Journal and was pleased to read that the interconnector will not now be built until 2017, if at all. It became grimly amusing when I subsequently picked up a copy of the Stornoway Gazette, which was still highlighting a report, which promised 3,500 jobs in the Western Isles out of the renewables industry - provided problems like the interconnector are addressed. The problem will not be addressed in favour of the renewables industry, as the economical case is too weak, in a nutshell.
A decade has been spent by (amongst others) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar trying to get large, shore-based windfarms to these islands. The writing was already on the wall as far back as 2008, when the 180-turbine Barvas Moor windfarm was torpedoed. This was to have been the salvation of the Western Isles economy, with the diaspora flocking home to the 400 jobs at the Arnish Fabrication Yard.
The Eishken windfarm was rubberstamped in a much reduced form, with beads and mirrors being dangled in front of us in the shape of the community benefit - which although fairly substantial, was in no proportion to the profits to be generated by developers and landowners. This too is now dead in the water, as its output requires the interconnector.
I am not going to sit here being accused of wanting to keep these islands back. Far from it. I fully back the Comhairle in its attempts to attract sustainable, long-term and large-scale employment to the Outer Hebrides. Embracing the renewables industry in the way that the Comhairle has done thus far has turned out to be a non-starter. I acknowledge that the geography has proved to be a major stumbling block. But a single focus, rather than taking a diversified approach, did not help either.