Senior Conservation Policy Officer, Richard Evans, has this response to a recent online article on a 35-turbine windfarm at Gordonbush in Sutherland. 

Gordonbush: putting the record straight

In a recent online article James Delingpole states that the RSPB was “instrumental in easing through the planning process” a 35-turbine windfarm at Gordonbush, in east Sutherland.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We have asked the publishers of the article to have it withdrawn or amended but as that has not yet happened we have produced this response to help clarify our involvement at Gordonbush.

Perhaps the most obviously misleading inference made in Mr Dellingpole’s article is that the RSPB encouraged the Gordonbush windfarm to happen. Given that we formally objected to the development through the planning process, and tried our hardest to stop it, it is hard to see how he could make this leap. This is also certainly not what the Scottish Ministers thought. In their decision letter[1] they are clear that the RSPB objected to the proposal, and maintained that objection, even after SNH had withdrawn[2] theirs.

SNH’s withdrawal was conditional on SSE paying for research into the effects of the windfarm on golden plover (condition 6.40 of the consent[3]). The RSPB continued to oppose the windfarm but accepted that, should the windfarm go ahead despite our concerns, it would be important to monitor impacts and a research project could produce useful results. RSPB scientists were eventually appointed to carry out the research, in order to ensure that the results were as thorough and robust as possible. 

Fieldwork is now complete, and the results are due to be submitted shortly for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The results will certainly be published when that process is complete but journal publication takes some time due to the need to ensure findings are thoroughly checked and robust. 

Golden plover, Andy Hay (

Delingpole goes on to generalise from his misinterpretation of the Gordonbush story, to suggest that:  “... rather than using its campaigning muscle to stop wind farms being built on the uplands where raptors and other rare and protected birds tend to congregate, it instead often found itself in the strange position of supporting wind projects.” In general, the RSPB unashamedly does support the development of well designed and carefully sited windfarms. We desperately need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the effects of climate change on birds and other wildlife.

Supporting the development of windfarms, as well as other renewables and energy reduction measures, is clearly part of what we need to do to protect wildlife from climate change. Due in no small part to the efforts of the RSPB, working with Governments and industry, the vast majority of windfarms in the UK are generating much needed renewable energy and causing no significant harm to wildlife. However, individual projects can sometimes still pose a significant threat and the RSPB opposes these vociferously.

James Delingpole has obviously forgotten about (or quite possibly selectively never heard of) the Lewis windfarm[4], or Stacain[5], or SSE’s abandoned scheme at Waterhead Moor[6] to name just a few high profile cases fought by the RSPB – never mind the many other schemes that have been dropped before reaching the formal application stage, as a consequence of RSPB pressure.

Gordonbush is one of the few windfarms where, unfortunately, we haven’t managed to stop a damaging windfarm from going ahead.  We will be looking to work with the Scottish Government, SNH and the windfarm operators to see what action can be taken to reverse the impacts on golden plover at Gordonbush. The extent to which golden plover have been affected by the windfarm will be included in RSPB’s scientific paper, which (subject to the peer-review process) should be published some time in 2015. The content of that publication will be factual – unlike James Delingpole’s latest contribution.