MSP Gail Ross apologises for not being able to do more over Coul Links
MSP Gail Ross has issued a “heartfelt” apology to the American businessmen behind the failed Coul Links golf course project and also to the community it would have benefited.
Mrs Ross, the SNP representative for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, said she was sorry she had been unable to do more to ensure the development went ahead.
She said: “I give my heartfelt apologies to both the developers and the community that I couldn’t do more.”
She has also condemned comments made about one of the developers Todd Warnock, stating there was a deliberate attempt to “besmirch him” and those involved should be ashamed.
The ambitious plan to build a championship golf course at Coul Links, near Embo, was rejected by the Scottish Government last month on environmental grounds after having been approved by Highland Council in 2018.
Scottish ministers said the plan would have supported economic growth and rural development.
But they agreed with government-appointed planning officials' findings that the golf course would have "significant" effects on rare plantlife, wintering and breeding birds and dunes..
The government said the "likely detriment to natural heritage is not outweighed by the socio-economic benefits of the proposal".
The decision came as a shock to local supporters who welcomed the economic shot in the arm it would have brought the area.
Mrs Ross who is standing down at the 2021 Holyrood election to spend more time with her family, made her feelings clear in a letter to the Northern Times (see page 15).
She said she had decided to support the development only after looking at the facts, taking full account of all the information available and meeting with as many interested parties as she could.
“I came to the conclusion that the developers had done all they could to mitigate the environmental impact and that the economic benefit could not be disputed and decided that the correct outcome could only be approval,” she said.
She wrote to the Scottish Government on several occasions and contributed a written submission officially.
She revealed she had been stung by “untrue and hurtful” accusations that she did not care for nature and the environment or the protection of wild spaces and did not recognise that there was a climate emergency.
“I supported the application because I saw the potential and the opportunities that it promised,” she stated. “I saw the excitement in the local community about the possibilities. I recognised the message that it would send about the area being open for business should it go ahead.”
Mrs Ross said Mr Warnock, who established the five star Links House at Royal Dornoch and the town's Carnegie Courthouse, had invested substantial amounts in the local area, created jobs and was looked upon with fondness by many.
“For those that are not even from the local area to speak of him as they did smacks of desperation and has not left a great impression with the community, she said.
She concluded: “As for the final decision, the report from the independent reporter was extremely disappointing.
“I find it very difficult to see why a project that can have such great local benefits can be refused.
“The refusal is a real loss to the area and the wider Highlands.”