THE Scottish Government insisted it was sticking to the rules yesterday as Labour’s Iain Gray accused ministers of “riding roughshod over local democracy”.

The comment came as former Labour leader Gray delivered a 1000-signature petition to parliament over plans for the former Cockenzie power station.

East Lothian Council bought the site in March after producing a “vision document” outlining potential uses resulting from public consultations and meetings with community groups. These include the creation of industrial and leisure facilities, as well as green space.

One community council also called for the land to be redeveloped into a cruise port.

However, questions remain over its future usage after the Scottish Government called in a planning application linked to part of the site.

If approved, the bid could see an energy substation erected to serve an offshore wind farm backed by Edinburgh-based Red Rock Power, which is owned by China’s State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC).

The call-in prompted outcry last month as it coincided with the First Minister’s trip to China, which included a meeting with SDIC. However, Planning Minister Kevin Stewart denied there was a connection, saying that he took the step prior to the trip, adding: “There was no connection whatsoever to the First Minister’s visit to China.”

Yesterday officials outlined the process after Gray accused ministers of “riding roughshod over local democracy”.

Gray said: “The site of what used to be Cockenzie power station has a real chance to create something which will provide jobs and economic development for East Lothian, but we have a renewable energy company who want to stick a substation right in the middle of the most important part of the site.

“It’s East Lothian Council who should decide that planning application. They understand the importance of it. But now we have some Scottish ministers step in, call this in, so they can take the decision instead of local people and local communities.

“The danger is they render the most important part of this site impossible to develop in the future.”

National planning policy states that if there is insufficient land for competing proposals at Cockenzie, priority should be given to those which make best use of the location’s assets and bring the greatest economic benefits.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said timing was a factor in the decision, saying: “The application is time critical as it relates to possible UK Government subsidies if planning permission is given. Calling in the application gives a greater chance of a timely decision ahead of the funding deadline. It does not pre-determine the outcome of the planning process.”

On the procedure, the spokesperson commented: “An independent reporter will now consider the application and provide a recommendation to ministers who will make the final decision.

“The reporter will decide what information is required to fully consider the case, who is best placed to provide this and the most appropriate method of obtaining it.

“The reporter will ensure that the local development plan and the community’s views are taken into account prior to making a recommendation to ministers.”