Mountaineers are urging outdoor fans to back a conservation charity battling a windfarm proposal in what it says is a David and Goliath fight.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland asked walkers and climbers to chip in to help the John Muir Trust, which lost a court case today that would have capped its costs in a judicial review.
Lord Phillip, sitting in the Court of Session in Edinburgh, refused to grant a protective expenses order to the trust.
A JMT spokesperson said: “This is the first stage of a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s decision earlier this year to consent a giant windfarm proposed by Scottish and Southern Energy at Stronelairg, in an area which was identified as wild land, in the Monadhliath Mountains between Loch Ness and the Cairngorms.
“The protective expenses order procedure exists to make it possible for anyone, including charities or communities, to take a case in the courts to protect the environment in the public interest, without the risk of exposure to prohibitive costs from the other parties.”
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust said: “Naturally, we are disappointed with this decision.
“We do not have access to the resources of either the Scottish Government or SSE, the energy giant which stands to make hundreds of millions of pounds from the Stronelairg development.
“Today’s decision suggests that charities in Scotland will find it extremely difficult to obtain a measure of protection from very high legal costs when bringing environmental cases in the public interest.”
The Mountaineering Council backed the trust, which has started an appeal for funds to fight the case.
David Gibson, chief officer of the MCofS said: “Anyone interested in the functioning of a democratic planning process will see the logic of why there should be a judicial review, and why a charity acting in the public interest should have its legal costs protected.
“It’s about the decision by energy minister Fergus Ewing to grant planning consent to a 67-turbine industrial development at Stronelairg, in the heart of the Monadhliath mountains and with a footprint the size of Inverness, without any public local inquiry, immediately after the Scottish Government asked [Scottish Natural Heritage] to remove Stronelairg and the surrounding area from the final version of the wild land areas map.
“The lack of recourse to a protective expenses order means it’s David the charitable trust against the Goliaths of the Scottish Government and SSE in the courts.
“We urge anyone interested in saving what little remains of Scotland’s wild land to support the John Muir Trust’s appeal for funds to help with the costs of their legal challenge.”