APPLICATIONS for renewable energy projects are flooding in across Scotland.

Many are welcome – but many are not, whether due to their location or their scale. What and where are now vital questions being asked in communities.

More importantly, who will decide which projects go ahead, and from whose perspective will the criteria of balancing the environment with economic benefit be viewed? There are many Scottish communities feeling not just threatened but ignored.

Renewable energy should be transforming Scotland socially and economically, not turning us into a giant transmission station. We require the benefits in terms of cheap energy, job creation and new businesses locating.

Instead in many areas it appears to be the devastation not just temporarily but permanently of the scenic natural environment. With no upside, fuel poverty worsens, skilled employment requires moving from your community, if not your native land, and business development remains a distant dream.

Of course, that’s not to argue that we don’t need to transition. The case for moving from fossil fuels to renewables has long since been made and each day simply increases the urgency as climate change worsens.

Scotland has been blessed with a great natural bounty from which we should seek to benefit not just ourselves but by providing for others, albeit for modest remuneration.

But with large tracts of Scotland producing their entire domestic electricity supply through renewables and the whole country now closing in on that target, the situation has changed.

I recall sitting in Cabinet many years ago when arguments were being made against a continuing push for onshore wind energy. The decision then, which I supported, was that they required to be continued. I believe that was right then and explains why we are near that 100% today.

I don’t rule out further onshore wind development. But the argument has moved on considerably and the new dynamic of offshore wind further transforms the position.

There may be good arguments for further sites but if they’re simply for corporate profits and for the supply of clean energy south of the Border, then I sense I might not be persuaded at all, let alone easily. A few thousand quid to villages and towns in no way recompenses for the damage done.

Similarly, there’s the issue of battery storage and other related projects. These are hugely intrusive, and, truth be told, simply monstrously ugly.

High fencing around shipping container-sized buildings is never going to be easy to prettify – and it’s not even offset by local employment. Permanent jobs in the locality are non-existent other than some minor grass cutting duties, as I’ve been advised for one applied for in East Lothians Lammermuir Hills.

Battery storage is needed to offset the absurdity of approaching 17% of onshore turbine capacity being switched off due to lack of grid capacity. Allied to that is the perversity of energy suppliers being paid more to switch off than when powering homes.

Even with the National Grid improved there will still be a need for battery storage for times when the wind doesn’t blow, There’s a requirement for a surge in use and for related products such as hydrogen. But how much and where remain the questions?

I asked the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) the new organisation charged with overseeing the supply of electricity from where its produced to where there’s need – or market more like – about this.

IT is accepted that certain improvements to the grid would ultimately result in further battery storage not being required other than for those ancillary issues. But while acknowledging that would happen, the National Grid ESO is unable to say when or at what capacity.

So instead we have what to all intents and purposes are just speculative applications – and invariably in rural parts of Scotland though they are for supplying the market in metropolitan areas down south.

It’s more economical to site them nearer the source of production or transmission rather than adjacent to where the need is and where the power will be used. But the cost is to be borne here in Scotland and the benefit taken elsewhere.

That’s even more stark when it comes to pylons. The National Grid ESO is to address the supply of electricity from where it’s produced – largely in northern and north-east Scotland – and its delivery to the areas needing that cheap and clean power. Improvements to the grid will see additional subsea cabling adding to the links from Peterhead and Torness to Drax and Redcar respectively on the east coast, and from Hunterston to Connah’s Quay in north Wales on the west.

But there’s also to be a spinal link, as they call it, which will run from the north-east of Scotland down the east coast, and then cut through the Borders to head for Merseyside. Why not cable all, either on or offshore? As ever, it’s finance, with onshore cabling being four times more expensive and offshore eight times. That’s what’s driving the erection of pylons, which aren’t telephone post scale but monster size.

According to the National Grid ESO, environmental impact and economic benefit are factors which they will look at and will carry equal weight in considering applications for whatever aspect. But from whose perspective and in whose interest?

Seen from my local community’s position or from others I’ve met up north, the environmental damage will be massive and permanent. The economic gain will be little, if any. But seen through the eyes of energy suppliers, or even urban areas in England, the environmental impact is marginal and yet the economic benefits are huge.

Our planet needs to transition but we cannot allow the perversity of an energy-rich Scotland and yet fuel poor Scots be compounded by the environmental devastation of our land for the economic benefit of another country.

It’s why we need control of our natural resources and need to be able to decide what, where and how much. We mustn’t simply be a giant transmission station.