THE developers behind four massive offshore wind farms were celebrating yesterday after Scotland’s most senior judge ruled they should go ahead.

Last year judge Lord Stewart upheld a legal challenge brought by RSPB Scotland against renewables projects in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay capable of powering a combined 1.4 million homes.

The charity said the schemes would hit bird life and argued that the Scottish Government had breached legal requirements by giving them the green light.

But yesterday Lord Carloway reversed the decision, ruling that the other judge had not interpreted the law correctly.

One commentator called the move a “victory for offshore wind”.

However, RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said the charity was “hugely disappointed”, adding: “Whilst we fully support deployment of renewable energy, this must not be at any cost.

“These four huge projects threaten to kill thousands of Scotland’s internationally-protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes.

“These could be amongst the most deadly windfarms for birds anywhere in the world.”

Ministers approved developments at Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and both Seagreen Alpha and Bravo three years ago.

When the RSPB’s case came to the Court of Session, Lord Stewart ruled the Scottish Government had failed to give proper consideration to the implications for birds, or to properly consult relevant parties.

He also said ministers had acted unlawfully by using “unconsulted information” as part of decision-making.

However, Carloway, sitting with two other judges, rejected this, saying Holyrood had acted in accordance with the law and that the previous judge had “strayed well beyond the limits” of his role.

A written statement said that acting “as a finder of fact on matters of scientific fact and methodology... are not within the proper province of a court of review”.

At the time of Stewart’s decision, former UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson said offshore wind in Scotland was “pretty much dead”.

Yesterday commentator Gareth Phillips, energy partner at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: “This is a welcome victory for offshore wind at a time when upheaval of energy policy has been a major headache for developers across UK renewables. While the appeals process could mean this is not the end of the story, this ruling sends positive signal to investors that the UK energy industry is open for business.”

Once complete, the £2 billion Neart na Gaoithe wind farm alone, which has secured a subsidy, will be capable of powering all the homes in the city the size of Edinburgh.

David Sweenie, of developer Mainstream Renewable Power, said he would now “move quickly” to begin construction, adding: “As a nationally-significant infrastructure project, Neart na Gaoithe will help Scotland and the UK meet their climate and energy goals, and develop a world-leading offshore wind sector.

“We have worked closely with a range of partners on the project, including the RSPB and we look forward to continuing to do so as we take the development forward. Rapid advances in offshore wind technology have enabled us to reduce the number of turbines to be installed from 125 in the original consent application in 2012 to a maximum of 64 turbines today.”

Red Rock Power, the company behind the £2b Inch Cape wind farm, said it will “continue to work collaboratively with the RSPB and all stakeholders to refine the project design to ensure that the project can be delivered whilst minimising environmental impact”.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “The Scottish government remains strongly committed to the development of offshore wind energy, as this key low-carbon technology offers a huge economic opportunity for Scotland.

“Through helping to decarbonise our electricity supply, it also has a key role to play in our fight against the threat posed by climate change to both our society and our natural environment.

We are keen to work constructively with both the RSPB and renewable energy developers to ensure the sector has a bright future.”