Scotland

Greens' John Finnie challenges government over Coul Links

Coul Links Image copyright Coul Links
Image caption An 18-hole championship golf course has been proposed at Coul Links

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie has challenged the Scottish government's engagement with the developers of the planned Coul Links golf course.

Mr Finnie said there was a risk of "history repeating itself" following controversy over Donald Trump's golf course in Aberdeenshire.

The first minister said the government would be expected to engage with potential investors in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon said firms were offered guidance on planning regulations.

She also said any engagement with companies was done before planning permission was sought for projects.

At First Minister's Questions, Mr Finnie said he had gathered information through freedom of information requests, and parliamentary questions, on meetings the government has had with the developers of Coul Links.

He said a number of these meetings had taken place.

'Level of interference'

Mr Finnie went on to say: "When Donald Trump built his course in Aberdeenshire, we were told it would improve the environment. That site is now in danger of de-designation

"The same environmental claims have been made about Coul Links.

"Does the first minister not see history is repeating itself, and how can we have faith in a planning process when there is this level of interference?"

In her response, Ms Sturgeon said it would be "ridiculous" for the government not to engage with companies looking to invest in Scotland at the pre-planning stage of developments.

She said of the engagement with the Coul Links developers: "No meetings with Scottish government ministers or officials have taken place since the planning application was made."

A planning application has been submitted with Highland Council for the course.

Scottish Natural Heritage and a group of organisations that includes RSPB Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland, have objected to the proposal.

The developers, who include US businessmen Mike Keiser and Todd Warnock, have said efforts to minimise any impact of the golf course has been "exhaustive".

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