MSPs dismiss Donald Trump green tourism claims

Donald Trump told MSPs that he is the evidence when asked to back his claims wind power will damage Scotland's tourism industry

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There is no "robust" evidence that renewable energy developments are hurting Scotland's tourism industry, a parliamentary inquiry has said.

The finding came despite claims from US tycoon Donald Trump that Scotland was committing "financial suicide" by building wind farms.

Holyrood's economy committee also said the Scottish government's ambitious green energy targets could be met.

But MSPs warned they were being put at risk because of a lack of finance.

The government welcomed the report.

Ministers want to see the equivalent of 100% of Scotland's electricity needs generated from renewable sources by 2020, as part of its drive to make the country Europe's green "capital".

Start Quote

Global investors - be warned”

End Quote Trump Organisation statement

Mr Trump, who gave evidence in person to the inquiry, is opposing plans to build an offshore wind farm near his £1bn golf resort in Menie, Aberdeenshire.

He said Scotland was committing "financial suicide" by wanting to create a "wind farm landscape".

The businessman told the inquiry wind farms were inefficient, could not operate without big subsides, "killed massive amounts of wildlife" and would damage tourism.

When challenged to provide statistical evidence for his arguments, Mr Trump told the committee in April: "I am the evidence", adding: "I am considered a world-class expert in tourism, so when you say, 'where is the expert and where is the evidence', I'm the evidence."

'White wash'

In its inquiry report, the committee said: "No witness has provided the committee with robust, empirical evidence, as opposed to anecdotal comment and opinion, that tourism is being negatively affected by the development of renewable projects."

Responding to the committee's findings, the Trump Organisation suggested the inquiry was a "white wash", adding: "The report, with findings like these, does not inspire confidence - it fails entirely to address the costs to the public and the impact on tourism, communities and the lives of ordinary people.

"This government cannot be trusted, they will say and do anything, including lie, to support their political goals.

"The Scottish economy is condemned to suffer a downward spiral, if this thinking continues - global investors be warned."

Elsewhere, the economy committee report warned the green energy targets were at risk because companies were struggling to get finance, and said the planning system and investment in industry skills must be looked at.

Elsewhere, the committee said:

  • Significant investment in infrastructure is needed to grow the renewables industry amid a "reluctance" of some banks to invest, particularly in small and medium sized projects;
  • Renewable energy skill shortages means there is a risk the target will not be met without investment in science, technology, engineering and maths at school, college and universities.
  • Under-pressure councils need help due to high volumes of planning applications.
  • Greater consideration of the economic benefits of community renewable projects should be considered under the planning system.
  • The UK government should "end industry uncertainty" by finalising their Renewables Obligation Certificate levels.
  • The Scottish islands are still disadvantaged by the electricity transmission and charging system, making many projects "uneconomic".
  • The target to generate 11% of heat demand from renewable sources by 2020 is at risk because of issues surrounding local and domestic heating schemes.

Economy committee convener Murdo Fraser said: "The electricity target can be achieved, but only if the issues outlined in this report are acted upon.

Wind Turbine MSPs on the committee said action was needed for Scotland to meet its green energy targets

"Our recommendations are crucial to the success of the renewables industry in Scotland, and focus on issues such as access to finance, the planning system, infrastructure development and investment in skills."

The Tory MSP said the Scottish and UK governments would have to work together to meet some of the aims in the report.

Mr Fraser added: "The overwhelming message from investors was that strong leadership, and a robust and reliable investment climate and subsidy regime is critical for the targets to be met.

"The committee regrets the reluctance of some banks to invest and in the current financial environment, is concerned that the renewables industry will not have access to the finance it needs to grow, which will ultimately put the targets at risk."

Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing welcomed the report's conclusion that the renewable energy target could be met.

He added: "We welcome the committee's acknowledgement that renewable energy is a 'safe bet' to provide energy security for the people of Scotland and protect us all from energy price shock.

"The positive tone of this report reflects the widespread belief across the industry, the government and its agencies and key stakeholders that renewable energy can deliver huge benefits for Scotland's people."

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