Beauly to Denny pylon plans must be reconsidered
Scottish Power has been given until June to draw up improved plans to limit the visual impact of the Beauly-Denny power line in the area around Stirling.
Energy Minister Jim Mather asked the company to consider "unexplored options", including burying the line.
Any final approval of the scheme would now take place after the Scottish elections in May.
Scottish Power has ruled out burying the line, citing technical, economic and environmental reasons.
Ministers approved the 440kv power line upgrade in January 2010. It will consist of a network of 600 pylons and connect renewable power generated in the north of Scotland to the national grid.
When it gave permission for the project, the Scottish government asked Scottish Power to draw up plans to limit the visual impact of the power line.
The company is responsible for a 12-mile (20km) stretch of the power line in the Stirling and Falkirk areas.
Mitigation measures for other parts of the 137-mile (220km) line, which will run from near Inverness to the Falkirk area, were agreed in October.
Scottish Power said it would use landscaping to screen parts of the route near Stirling and that the pylons - some more than 200ft (60m) in height - would be painted darker shades to help blend in.
But councillors in Stirling branded the plans as "wholly inadequate" which did little to address communities' concerns.
Mr Mather said: "The proposals that SPT [Scottish Power] have submitted to the Scottish government were deemed unsatisfactory by Stirling Council during SPT's consultation last year.
"I have considered SPT's proposals and concluded that the formal process of consultation with Stirling Council cannot usefully begin.
"I have therefore asked SPT and Stirling Council, as a matter of urgency, to engage closely and consider the scheme further, including any as yet unexplored options."
A spokesman for Scottish Power said the company would be seeking "clarity" following the Scottish government's announcement.
"Whilst consent was granted for an overhead power line, a total of 22 options for partial and total undergrounding have been considered.
"This reaffirmed our position that undergrounding cannot be justified on the grounds of cost, technical difficulties and limited environmental benefits.
"This is in line with the view of the reporter and, in approving the overhead power line, Scottish ministers."