Bitterness and anger in Aith and Nesting over windfarm
With the prospect of giant turbines almost on their doorsteps, many people in the communities of Nesting and Aith have been opposed to the windfarm from day one. News that energy minister Fergus Ewing has now approved the project was greeted in these areas with anger and incredulity.
Many detest the fact that they will have to live their lives in the shadow of the windmills and there is resentment that their opinions have been ignored by Viking Energy in its rush to put profit above preservation of the landscape.
The widespread bitterness about the windfarm’s approval was clear to see on Wednesday, when news of the green light for the 103 turbines began to sink in.
Among those who spoke out was photographer Ivan Hawick, whose South Nesting home will soon look out onto dozens of windmills, generating unwanted noise and causing disturbance to wildlife.
He harked back to a roadshow meeting in the South Nesting Hall, which had been staged by Viking Energy during the project’s difficult, and lengthy, gestation.
“The view that they showed people was done from an elevation of 10 metres, and it didn’t look that bad because it only showed you 20-odd [turbines] and some tips above the hill.
“But what they failed to mention was what folk, the likes of me up nearly 40 metres high were going to see. I’m going to see about 70 from my window.”
He insisted people had been told “a lot of rubbish” and had been “deceived”. He was also concerned about the level of noise the turbines would make.
“I can’t see how that many turbines a couple of miles away from the house are going to be completely silent. I’m really worried about it.
“I can’t believe it’s not going to a [public] inquiry either. They are just going to go in and destroy that quantity of delicate bird habitat. It beggars belief how they can do that.”
Marie Manson, from Girlsta, was in the Nesting Shop when she heard the news.
She re-iterated the views held by many that it would not be of any benefit to people in the isles.
“It’s just steamrolling over the Shetland folk. There is a big proportion of people who don’t want it,” she said.
There was criticism, too, in Lindsay and Carol Nicol’s home.
Mr Nicol had been particularly angered by Mr Ewing’s announcement. He called the go-ahead “an absolute disgrace” and described the windfarm as “a big blot on the landscape”.
“I think there should have been a referendum for Shetlanders, because the islands are becoming a big windfarm in my opinion.
“I don’t think the Scottish government should have been allowed to have made a decision that affects the population of Shetland.”
Mrs Nicol argued Viking had failed to address legitimate concerns which people held.
“They have consulted, but I don’t think they have provided answers to the right questions,” she said.
Others voiced fears the agricultural community would suffer, with one crofter – who did not wish to be named – insisting grazing for sheep would be reduced, and bird communities would be greatly disturbed.
Over the years many critics have insisted they were supportive of windfarms in general, but remained against Viking’s proposal because of its size and scale.
Ellis Keith would no doubt count himself among those. He said he was not against windfarms as such, but too much was at threat from Viking’s grandiose plans.
“I’m not against windmills, and I’m not against even quite a large windfarm in Shetland, but I think [Viking Energy] is possibly detrimental to tourism, possibly detrimental to our moorland and probably detrimental to birds.”
Sixteen-year-old Zoey Symington, a farm worker, said one of the turbines would be too close to her house for comfort.
“I don’t like the idea of it. They are going to be so big. We’re going to hear it all the time.”
But behind all the vitriol and bad-feeling, there was evidence some people were willing to see the turbines go up.
Rhoda Sandison said she was “quite happy” it had been approved. History, she said, was repeating itself, and Shetland needed to make the most of the opportunities that were on offer.
“There was as big a song and dance when the oil was coming to Shetland. The biggest majority of folk didn’t want oil. Where would we be today if we didn’t have the oil?”
In Aith there was little sign of such support, however. Lorna Moncrieff said she had felt “devastated” by the news. Like many, she had harsh words to say about the consultation process that has gone on, and was concerned the value of her house could take a tumble once the turbines are up and running.
“It’s alright for them in Lerwick and the south end. They’re not going to have to sit and look at it, but we’re going to have to look at it every day.
“It’s not as if we can move. We’ll not be able to move because we won’t be able to sell the house, anyway.”
Her husband, Jim, levelled criticism at the Scottish energy minister, and referred to recent reports Mr Ewing had used tax havens to invest his cash.
“Last week Fergus Ewing was under scrutiny for having £200,000 in offshore accounts. The man has no integrity to speak of how we are going to be effected in Shetland.”
Trevor Tindall insisted the possibilities offered by tidal power should have been explored more fully before a final decision was made on the Viking project.
“There are four things that happen every day, without fail. The tide goes in and goes out, twice in 24 hours. To me, that is what they should have been looking at.”
Meanwhile, retired head teacher Jim Nicolson said he had been “disappointed, but not surprised”.
“I thought it was likely that, given the stance being taken by the Scottish government, that they would give approval to it.
“However Viking Energy’s position has always been that the number of windmills being proposed were the minimum that would be required for the project to go ahead. I would be interested to know if that’s still their position.”
Asked what should happen now, he said he would be making his position clear to the new council once it is elected in May, as well as the trustees of the charitable trust.
Oliver Cheyne from Aith said: “I’m devastated by the news. It’s going to be the finish of the hills in that part of Shetland. It’s going to be a catastrophe for the burns, wiping out the troots. When [peat] moor gets going there’s nothing can stop it – it goes like a sledge. I’m sitting here trying to control my anger because it’s all about money.”