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A conversation with David Booth


David Booth, the long-standing Treasurer of Moffat and District Community Council agreed to answer some questions about wind farm monies and community benefits.




We started by considering David’s extensive experience in dealing with wind farm benefits:


“I have been involved in the wind farm benefits since near the beginning. And at this time, I am a member of the Clyde Wind Farm panel, I am a director of Annandale & Nithsdale Community Benefit Company Ltd, and Treasurer of Moffat and District Community Council.


MDCC have been asked yet again why they maintain a neutral stance. This has been discussed before, but we are here to support/represent all of the community. The majority of community councils do the same, although obviously there are exceptions.”


When the first wind farm monies became available, how were decisions taken about the amounts on offer, on how much would go to each Community Council (CC), and on how the monies would be disbursed?


“Clyde Wind Farm

The Clyde Wind Farm arrangement operates on the model that each eligible Community Council (CC) gets an equal share of the funds available. This “equal share model” was arrived at because, in the main, smaller CCs saw the bigger CCs taking the lions share. Moffat CC receives some £13.8K indexed per annum. The decisions on how monies are disbursed are made by a panel consisting of two members from each of the 12 CCs involved.


In the Clyde scheme there is the opportunity for each CC to draw down funds, nominally £1k per year to be administered as micro grants. But again, rules are in place and monitoring reports are required for audit purposes.


When the Clyde extension was being planned some 4/5 years ago now, the thought was that all of the construction traffic would travel through the town. In reality this never happened, because local site aggregate was found at the site; but a sum of £540k was agreed. There then followed public consultation on how Moffat should use their share and a vote was held in the town hall. Some 500 people voted on the various projects, and an independent panel agreed some other applications. There was some £20k left after this initial round of funding and it was agreed that these be used for micro grants at some £4K for 5 years. Some projects could apply for several years funding, and this was agreed for Moffat Civic Pride; Gallow Hill; Station Park; and a D&G Moffat-based youth project.



Harestanes


Harestanes was the next wind farm fund to impact on Moffat, but this uses a completely different model in as much as a community benefits company was created. Annandale & Nithsdale Community Benefit Company Ltd (ANCBC ) was set up by agreement with all the CCs involved; in this case some near 30 areas in number. This model ensured that all funding would be controlled by the Company, thereby giving projects the opportunity to apply for greater sums than the local CC would have access to. There is however a similar micro grant facility should the CC so wish. For Moffat we currently draw down £2000 annually, again administered by the CC.


Additionally, some of the windfarm companies have wider geographic funds available, for example SSE operate a sustainability fund, into which I applied successfully for a new kitchen in the Proudfoot. Other parties may have done similar.


In all of the schemes a third party manages the administration and the initial assessments of the Applications; and then makes recommendations to the Panel. The Panel has the final decision. In all of the Moffat schemes this third party is Foundation Scotland. In addition to the Panel, however, the wind farm operator reserves the right to a final say on all applications. To-date and to the best of my knowledge there has never been a refusal of any award. The application process and the assessment should already weed out any, shall we say, unsuitable projects. The full application criteria are available on the various web sites. In simple terms, comply with the requirements of the various funds, (e.g. no religion, no anti-wind farm, no grants for power consumption; must be of benefit to the community.”


Can you tell us more about the Micro grants administered by MDCC?

“Depending on the funding stream, grants can be either for a maximum of £250 or £500. In the early days, funds were very much over-subscribed, so tough decisions had to be made. In many cases pro rata sums were granted across the applications if possible. Groups can make multiple grant applications; obviously all depends on the circumstance of the projects. Moffat Civic Pride for example have had several grants over the years; as has the Tennis Championships held in Moffat on various occasions. “ (See document below listing many of the beneficiaries.)


Looking to the future: what would you envisage if the Scoop Hill project were to go ahead? How would you want to see the process unfolding?


“Scoop Hill application is obviously current at this time. Other proposals have been mooted, e.g Hartfell which, so far, have come to nothing. When the question of community benefit comes around, then there needs to be a conversation on what model is to be used. In my experience many Community Councils have varying views on how this should be achieved. There is a Scottish Government recommendation of £5K per generated megawatt, per annum. Most farms are operational for 25 years – Scoop Hill is however calculating 40 years of operation. Who does the measuring and how actual power output is measured, varies throughout the years and most certainly deteriorates over time. So, what number shall we use to put into a contract? All part of a negotiation. In the first place, get the principle of funds being available; but then contract on the actual, which is not known until the final consented plan has been agreed. Wind farms, being commercial enterprises, seem to change hands on a regular basis, or at least the shareholdings, so a good contract is required.


Currently, wind farm affected areas at this time lie in within a 15Km area. Maybe this is not the best definition. It really depends upon the site, and in discussion with regional and central government.


People also talk about this being public money, etc. etc. Correction this is very much private money. Words like ‘bribes’ often get used - a very singular point of view. But then again, the wind farm companies are bribed by the government, of all colours, because they are paid a guaranteed premium over many years to produce such power generation; all paid for by a “green “tax on consumers’ power bills.


Well, perhaps enough said at this time. Happy to answer any questions not touched on here. But please remember we are unpaid volunteers doing this type of work."


Wind farm grant beneficiaries
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