This update was included in Andrew's email newsletter on the 18th July 2023, you can join Andrew's mailling list from the homepage.
The proposals from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to construct a substation and associated powerlines through part of the Constituency have proven to be controversial. Under current proposals SSEN would like to construct a new substation at Fiddes, never Arbuthnott, then install new overhead lines to Kintore via Kirkton of Skene.
The concerns of residents have been a priority of mine in the weeks since the consultation opened and there have been a number of developments.
In May I joined colleagues from Council and the Scottish Parliament at a meeting in the heart of the Mearns to listen to the initial concerns that residents had. Many expressed their feelings that SSEN were not listening to residents, nor was the special, historical and prime agricultural land in the Mearns being respected. It was evident that SSEN had made mistakes in their engagement with the local community.
Myself and Mairi Gougeon, MSP for Angus North and Mearns, met with SSEN bosses where we discussed how people in the community had shared these concerns with us. I spoke of how people in the Mearns and other parts of West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine had felt disengaged with the amount of information available and wanted more opportunities to feedback.
I’m pleased that since then, SSEN have extended their consultation period not just once, but twice. The consultation on these plans is now running until Friday the 28th July to allow more residents toshare their views.
I’ve been clear from the start. I firmly believe that this country sorely needs new energy infrastructure if we are to meet our net zero ambitions and ensure the United Kingdom’s energy security. This is a view that I have seen many residents throughout Kincardineshire share. However, these new infrastructure projects must always be completed with the consent of local residents and those responsible must engage with communities and consider their views.
That is why I was incredibly disappointed to see the SNP seek to amend the Energy Bill currently going through Parliament. They sought to add an amendment that would block councils from launching a public inquiry into infrastructure works like windfarms and overhead lines. The SNP’s energy spokesperson Alan Brown MP said that this amendment was as a result of conversations he had with SSEN.
Douglas Lumsden MSP, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport, was right in describing this amendment as a blatant powergrab by the SNP.
Meanwhile, the consultation on these proposals goes on. It has been my view from the launch of the consultation that it is absolutely critical that people along the affected route participate so that their voices are heard. I recently wrote to all Councillors that represent wards that the proposed routes go through to urge them to speak to our shared constituents and encourage them to take part in the consultation.
It is clear that participation is having an affect. Just last week SSEN announced that they were now exploring alternative potential sites for the proposed substation. This was an important decision for SSEN that clearly demonstrates local voices are having an impact and the value of local communities engaging in this consultation.
As the 28th approaches and the brings the end of the consultation I will continue to engage with SSEN on these proposals on behalf of residents. I will also continue to accept constituents sharing their thoughts with me on the plans once the consultation closes which I will share with SSEN who have agreed to take them into consideration after the 28th.