20th September 2018
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MP and MSP back calls for windfarm comments extension

, by , in Public Affairs

Shetland’s MP and MSP have backed a call by Sustainable Shetland for an extension to the time allowed for comments on Viking Energy’s windfarm application.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox believes the 28-day response period given by the Scottish government is inadequate given the vast amounts of information included in the windfarm environmental statement, which took five years to compile and was only published just over two weeks ago.

He told the government’s energy consents unit in Glasgow it was “totally unacceptable” to have a deadline of 30th June for public objections when his group had been told repeatedly by Viking Energy that the detailed information it sought on issues such as peat removal and road building would only be made available in the environmental statement.

On Tuesday MSP Tavish Scott said he would approach Scottish energy minister Jim Mather to request an extension and to seek the opportunity for Sustainable Shetland to put its case to the minister, Highlands and Islands MSPs and the Scottish Parliament’s energy committee. Mr Scott said he hoped to arrange the briefings for September.

Mr Scott said he and Mr Carmichael had intervened because many constituents had raised concerns with them about the impact of the proposal to build 150 huge turbines on Shetland’s landscape and environment.

Mr Scott said: “Given the complexity of the project and its potential impact, many Shetlanders want more time to consider the details of the application, and to examine the bulky environmental statement. That is why we are urging Scottish ministers to extend the period for objections.”

In a joint statement, Mr Scott and Mr Carmichael added: “The representations we have received on this issue, both in our mailbags and at surgeries, show that there are three main issues of concern.

“The first is that of the impact of the scheme on Shetland and on the communities most affected by the windfarm. The very real concerns raised need to be addressed by Viking Energy. There is a widespread feeling that the consultation to date has failed to do this. Whether this is true or not, it is a widely held perception which needs to be addressed.

“The second is the question of whether or not Shetland can afford to invest in the project and worries about whether it will indeed be the community project it is supposed to be. The capital costs are rising and it is now beyond the ability of the [Shetland] Charitable Trust to fund Shetland’s share. The project may end up being largely, or wholly, owned by a multi-national energy company, with the council’s role reduced to that of landlord and most of the promised profits heading overseas. People need a clear assurance that this won’t happen.

“Finally, there is issue of the conflicts of interests the councillors find themselves in. They sit on the charitable trust, they have planning responsibilities, and they are representatives of their constituents. One of the constant themes in the representations that we have received is a frustration that councillors are in an impossible position, struggling to carry out their duties to represent their constituents, because of the restrictions imposed by their other duties. This is a massive deal for Shetland and our councillors must be free to represent the views of local people.”