South Scotland MSP Michelle Ballantyne has called for greater clarity over the Scottish Government’s decision to “call in” the Cockenzie Power Station planning application.
In a controversial move, Scottish Ministers decided to call in the application before democratically elected politicians on East Lothian Council had a chance to make a decision. Only nine other applications this decade have been treated in a similar manner. This step comes after a long and hard-fought campaign to secure the property for the local authority.
Under proposals from East Lothian Council and Prestonpans Community Council, the land would be earmarked for commercial development, or a new port servicing international cruise ships. Both plans would bring jobs, wealth, tourism and superior infrastructure to the region.
A rival application has been submitted by Inch Cape Offshore Limited, which is in turn owned by Red Rock Limited, a subsidiary of the Chinese State Development and Investment Corporation. Under Inch Cape’s proposals, the Cockenzie site would be used to build an electricity substation, which would be controlled remotely, creating no local jobs.
The decision by Scottish Ministers comes on the back of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s recent trip to China in an attempt to build better trading links.
Scottish Conservative MSP Michelle Ballantyne has written to local government minister Kevin Stewart requesting a full explanation of any dealings between the Scottish Government and Inch Cape as well as its affiliated businesses. In her letter the Scottish Conservative MSP also asks what benefits the proposed substation would have over the plans suggested by local stakeholders.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP, who represents the South Scotland region, said:
“As someone who served on a local authority for many years, I place great value on the importance of local decision making and firmly believe that the role of democratically elected councillors should be respected.
“The recent developments at the Cockenzie site have raised troubling questions about how the Scottish Government are handling this situation, with many of my constituents feeling that the Government are placing the interests of a Chinese company ahead of local priorities.
“I can see many reasons to agree with local stakeholders as their proposals promise jobs, tourism, infrastructure and prosperity. Meanwhile, Red Rock’s application will bring little to the area other than an eyesore.
“I have written to the Minister for Local Government and Housing, Kevin Stewart MSP, to ask for a full explanation for the reason behind this decision. I have also submitted urgent and topical questions to the Scottish Government for further clarity on this matter.
Lachlan Bruce, Councillor for Preston/Seton/Gosford Ward added:
"This move by the SNP government, which will see local decision making ignored is appalling. The future of this site is very significant to East Lothian and to prohibit local communities from having their views heard or considered is wholly wrong.
“It would seem that Nicola Sturgeon and her government may have decided that they would rather receive the kudos and thanks from their new friends in China than secure the best economic future for East Lothian.”