Image 3 - Katie Evamy chats to students at the Oban Festival of the Sea copy

SPR’s Beinn an Tuirc windfarm community benefit funds one renewables education post – to what end?

Students returning to schools in Argyll and Bute for the new academic year will find a new Education and Skills Development role in their education mix.  The post, a job share for Kirsty Jackson-Stark and Katie Evamy, will be funded by community benefit money given to communities local to SPR’s Beinn an Tuirc windfarm. Beinn an Tuirc is on the top of the central spinal ridge of the Kintye peninsula, directly west of Torrisdale, south of Carradale.

A press release on this development says: ‘Over £100,000 made by SPR over three years will support the role which will focus on broadening and strengthening the renewables-related skills base locally as well as promoting employability skills and preparing school leavers for local opportunities.

‘The Education and Skills Development role will work with school pupils and community groups across Argyll and Bute to generate interest and promote careers in the renewables sector and encourage the local people to develop the skills mix to be able to take advantage of renewables employment opportunities.

‘SPR has supported an Education and Development role in the area since 2007 in conjunction with ALlenergy and Argyll and Bute council, but the role has been enhanced to better support the local community and schools. An active member of Argyll and Bute Renewable Alliance (ABRA), SPR is working with local stakeholders to ensure that the renewable energy it is generating boosts the local economy and creates opportunities for local people.

‘To date, SPR has provided over £14.5m in community benefit funds in its areas of operation across the UK. Argyll and Bute has received more than £850,000 through the community benefit funds generated by the operational Cruach Mhor, Clachan Flats and Beinn an Tuirc windfarms.’

Commentary

A key to the driver is the following statement that: ‘SPR will further boost the funding it provides to local projects if consent is granted for an extension to Beinn an Tuirc.’

Windfarms have been consented with the support – or muted objection – from communities effectively bought off by promises of community benefit cash.

If one accepts that these things will in the end be forced into existence regardless, then communities might as well take the cash and let the wind farms happen sooner rather than later.

But if this is the pragmatic reality then there remains a serious argument about the best use of such cash and, in this instance for example, about who takes the decisions on how community benefit cash will  be spent.

We note that there is no mention in this press release of community councils’ involvement in the decision taking – nor of which school will be the base for the post; nor of the schools which will experience this addition to their curriculum.

The application of a tad of common sense to this proposition is enough to show what a waste of money it is.

One post shared between two half timers covering the very ill specified and frankly woolly remit set out above can achieve little if anything except a passing distraction.

If, as it seems, Argyll and Bute Council has, with AliEnergy [which seems to be the current employer of the two staff to share this post], been a major player in the decision as to how this £100,000 over three years should be spent, it would make a lot more sense to put it into the council’s challenged education budget.

Everything is welcome that can help to improve teaching where standards are falling markedly across Scotland in the foundation skills of numeracy and literacy; and where the teaching profession in Scotland is facing serious recruiting problems.

A total of £100k is not to be sneezed at if applied where it might actually make a difference. Spending it on a minimal provision of a cosmetic addition when the basics of learning are enfeebled is a foolish waste of scarce resources.

Kirsty Jackson-Stark, Education and Skills Development, ALIenergy, says: ‘I am excited about this new role as it provides the opportunity to work in partnership with key local agencies to inspire young people and the community about renewable energy. It also delivers and facilitates opportunities for young people and the local community to obtain skills enabling them to take up employment opportunities within the renewables sector.’

It’s good to see this excitement – but one job in two halves, spread very thinly? Come on.

The photograph above shows Katie Evamy talking to students at Oban’s Festival of the Sea.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • What better way to disburse illgotten gains than by paying someone to proselytise for the gravy train, and an added irony that they will be proselytising the people of the west of Scotland, who already suffer from burden of having subsidy-heavy ‘solutions’ imposed on them by those who know best.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    db August 18, 2015 2:21 pm Reply
  • Surely it is better funding 2 part time jobs than none at all

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

    Steve August 18, 2015 4:01 pm Reply
    • On the evidence of two major statistical reports – one on numeracy and one on literacy capabilities in Scotland’s primary and secondary schools – what Scotland needs most urgently is teachers capable of training our youngsters to read, write and count.
      Without stable ability in these fundamental priority skills, the very notion of ’employability’ is irrelevant.
      Many of our universities now have to have remedial classes for first year undergraduates.
      What does that say about the state of our education system?
      And these jobs are in no way ‘real’ jobs.
      The arrangement looks much more like the convenient use of diverting community benefit cash from the communities who need it to the sustaining of half of the jobs of two members of an energy company’s existing staff.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

      newsroom August 18, 2015 4:30 pm Reply
      • Numeracy definitely didn’t feature when they dreamt up the subsidy for wind energy, nor did the basic laws of physics feature when deciding on the fantastic target of a 100% renewable Scotland.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

        db August 18, 2015 5:26 pm Reply
  • SPR is an active member of ABRA? This group was formed in 2011 and seems to now be moribund, judging by the absence of minutes of meetings. ALIEnergy needs income (since it generates none of its own) and so all available funds will be directed towards that by A&BC. Self-preservation is a powerful force. Only the proximate communities, whether through their community councils or other democratic groups should determine where the funds go (and the funds are minimal relative to the returns accruing to the projects).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    jimmy mack August 18, 2015 5:43 pm Reply
  • There are far too many hanger ons in our schools doing the job teachers used to manage perfectly well .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Regularflyer August 18, 2015 9:01 pm Reply
  • The wind farm industry is now big business in these parts, and needs locally based maintenance staff to ensure the minimum of downtime for the turbines.
    It’s very much in the companies’ own interests to encourage young people to get the necessary specialist education/apprenticeships – so to present this funding as a ‘community benefit’ is surely a wee bit disingenuous.
    The opportunities for local employment, and the finance promised for community benefit, are undoubtedly factors influencing public opinion on the rights and wrongs of large-scale wind farm development, so to apparently use a chunk of the monies promised for community development as a recruitment aid seems to me rather underhand.
    The companies should be helping to encourage – and fund – the specialist education of their (or more likely their contractors’) local employees from their own very substantial profits.
    Not from the money committed to local ‘good causes’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

    Robert Wakeham August 19, 2015 8:41 pm Reply
  • These “Community Benefits” are usually little more than a pittance, but unless the local communities get more involved in the ownership of these schemes they are unlikely to be increased.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

    Arthur Blue August 19, 2015 9:24 pm Reply

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