Rough Justice? Exploring the Relationship Between Information Access and Environmental and Ecological Justice Pertaining to Two Controversial Coastal Developments in North-east Scotland

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Graeme Baxter


This paper explores the relationship between information access and environmental and ecological justice through an historical comparison of two controversial coastal developments in Aberdeenshire, North-east Scotland: the building of a North Sea gas reception terminal by the British Gas Council and the French exploration company Total Oil Marine in the 1970s; and the more recent construction of ‘the greatest golf course anywhere in the world’ by the American property tycoon, Donald Trump. These two projects have much in common, not least because each one has had actual or potential impacts on an environmentally sensitive site, and because each has also been affected by plans for another major structure in its immediate vicinity. But the Trump golf course project has taken place during a period when access to information and citizens’ influence on major planning decisions in Scotland has been significantly greater, at least theoretically. With these points in mind, the paper considers whether or not environmental justice (more specifically, procedural environmental justice) and ecological justice are now more attainable in the current era of supposed openness, transparency and public engagement, than in the more secretive and less participative 1970s. It reveals that, at the planning application stage, information on the potential environmental impact of Trump’s golf resort was more readily obtainable, compared with that provided by the Gas Council and Total forty years earlier. However, during and after the construction stage, when considering whether or not the developments have met environmental planning conditions – and whether or not ecological justice has been done – the situation with the gas terminal has been far clearer than with Trump’s golf resort. Despite the golf course being built in an era of government openness, there remain a number of unanswered questions concerning its environmental impact.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Graeme Baxter, Robert Gordon University

Research Assistant and part-time Lecturer