Power firm SSEN has warned that the lights will go out if Scottish Government ministers accept Highland councillors’ objection to its planned transmission line upgrade on Skye.
Members of the council’s north and south planning committees oppose the scale of the £500m scheme based on the grounds of potential impacts on communities and the natural environment.
The 100-mile line would transmit electricity generated by renewable projects between northwest Skye and Fort Augustus on the mainland.
SSEN says new lines are essential to help meet UK and Scottish Government targets for renewable energy.
As consultees, councillors were invited to comment and voted 11-9 to object to the planning application after a passionate debate in Inverness on Wednesday.
In a statement, SSEN Transmission said: “We are extremely disappointed by the council’s decision to object to our project following the recent submission of additional information, which goes against the recommendation of the council’s planning officers and committee’s previous decision. (in March)
“The existing overhead line was built in the 1950s and is fast reaching the end of its operational life, as demonstrated by two major faults earlier this year which resulted in the temporary loss of power to over 20,000 customers with its replacement critical to keep the lights on for homes and businesses across Skye and in the Western Isles.
“It will also enable the connection of new renewable electricity generation along its route, supporting energy security and climate change targets.
“We now look forward to the Scottish Government’s timely determination of our Section 37 application and remain committed to work constructively with all stakeholders to deliver this critical national infrastructure, which is essential to keep the lights on and support the transition to net zero.”
The new line is part of proposals to strengthen transmission links to help achieve governmental 2045 carbon emission targets.
SSEN estimates the Skye link would take three years to construct. It would take a further seven months to remove outdated equipment.
The project promises to create 650 jobs – 167 of them in the Highlands.
Several councillors complained that there had been a lack of commitment to community benefit from the project.
Independent Dingwall and Seaforth councillor Margaret Paterson warned that islanders would “lose their peace” if the planning application was approved, adding that residents “won’t allow Skye to be trashed.”
SNP Skye councillor Drew Millar moved the objection to the planning application and was seconded by fellow island councillor Ruraidh Stewart who leads the council’s Conservative group.
The motion acknowledged the need to update the transmission line but questioned the scale of SSEN’s proposal, warning of an “unacceptable impact” on the island.
More than 20 Skye campaigners, conscious that the island’s existing windfarms are already tackling carbon emissions, made the journey to witness the council debate in the Glenurquhart Road chamber.
Speaking afterwards, Andrew Robinson of the Skye Windfarm Information Group said: “Skye’s a beautiful, world renowned landscape. We depend on tourism for its economy.
“SSEN are pulling a fast one. They’re trying to persuade us it’s necessary to build a line of this scale and it’s not necessary.
“They could replace the line that’s already there with slightly increased capacity. That would keep the lights on, on Skye and the outer isles.”
Rhona Coogan of the Breakish Windfarm Action Group said: “We ultimately have to realise that nature should be held dear. Skye is renowned for its peace and tranquillity and natural sense of being, and we shouldn’t be industrialised.”
Scottish Government ministers will decide whether the planning application is approved.
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