Four in 10 wind turbine appeals won
Four in 10 wind turbine appeals decided by the Scottish government successfully overturned the original decision, the BBC has found.
Official figures show 250 wind turbine applications, which were refused by Scottish councils, have been decided by the Scottish government since 2002.
In 104 cases (41.6%) the original decision was reversed.
Campaign groups said government planners were overruling democratic decisions taken by councils.
The Scottish government said the planning system was focused on early engagement with communities.
The figures from the Scottish government's Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) detail the number of appeals decided over the past 16 years.
They include a small number of cases - nine in total - relating to conditions attached to a development but the rest are for wind farms of two turbines or more.
|Wind farm appeals and outcomes by council area|
|Argyll and Bute||3||7||10|
|Comhairle nan Eilean Siar||1||0||1|
|Dumfries and Galloway||13||16||29|
|Perth and Kinross||8||13||21|
Highland (13), Dumfries and Galloway (13) and Aberdeenshire (11) had the most wind farm decisions overturned.
Scottish Borders (9) and Perth and Kinross (8) also had a significant number of successful appeals.
South Ayrshire had more appeals allowed (6) than refused (4), as did West Lothian.
'Lengthy and costly'
Figures from the UK government's Department of Energy show that more than 300 wind farm sites are operational across Scotland, with a total of more than 3,500 turbines.
They show that more than 850 applications have been submitted, with 338 refused by councils.
Stephanie Conesa, policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said the appeals process was not one anyone entered into lightly.
"While developers of larger projects can appeal local planning decisions to the Scottish government, this process is lengthy and costly," she said.
"No developer wants to use appeal processes unless they have strong grounds to do.
"Experience across the board has shown that where local people are engaged early in the planning process, better outcomes are achieved all-round."
DPEA figures also show the average time taken to decide an appeal.
It can range from anything from seven to 127 weeks, with an average of a little over six months (27 weeks).
Graham Lang, of campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said he would like to see the system changed.
"The DPEA overrules democratically-reached decisions by planning committees at local planning authorities," he said.
"The members of the committees are democratically elected councillors who consider the report of the council's planning officers.
"As decision-takers they have the responsibility of determining applications in accordance with their interpretation of the councils planning policies.
"Sometimes they agree with officers' recommendations and sometimes they do not but the decision is part of the democratic process."
He said he would like to see a right of appeal extended.
"I would like to have a level playing field where - within strict parameters - third parties could appeal against the approval of a wind farm," he said.
'Conflict and mistrust'
The Scottish government said it recognised the "long-running debate" over appeal rights but its position remained clear.
"We cannot support changes which will add further conflict and mistrust to the planning system, nor to act as a disincentive to the investment our communities need and want," a spokeswoman said.
"Scotland's planning system needs to work for everyone and that's what the planning bill does."
There is new planning currently before the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish government spokeswoman said the reforms were focused on "proactive and productive early engagement with communities in planning how their places will develop".
She said: "That stronger early involvement is much more constructive than more adversarial appeals at the end of the process."
Ms Conesa, from Scottish Renewables, said the planning system was designed to "give a voice" to everyone and get communities involved "at the earliest stages".
"In that way people in rural Scotland can continue to take advantage of the socio-economic benefits which are already being delivered by onshore wind in their communities while having greater control over planning in their areas," she said.