16th August 2018
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Candidates as divided as public over windfarm

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SIC election candidates are deeply divided on the contentious Viking Energy windfarm development, with contenders’ blend of strong support, mixed feelings and outright opposition loosely in step with public opinion.

The Shetland Times this week asked all 43 candidates to declare where they stood on the project which, having been granted consent by Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing on 4th April, has again hogged the headlines in recent weeks.

Of the 36 candidates who had responded when we went to press, just under half favour Viking Energy to differing degrees. At least a dozen are strongly against the 103 turbine project for an array of different reasons, while the remainder voiced mixed sentiments.

Although the council’s most significant involvement with the project came in December 2010 when it voted 9-3 to back the windfarm, those elected to the new SIC on 3rd May will still play a significant role through their entitlement to a seat on Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT).

The trust failed to muster enough trustees to vote on a further £6.3 million investment in Viking Energy on Monday. Because SCT reform will take some months to complete, it means the winning candidates who choose to take up their role as a trustee will face a huge decision within the first few weeks of the new council term.

In the West Mainland, the constituency which stands to be most directly affected by the windfarm, the majority of candidates are strongly against the project in its current form.

Of the six candidates who responded only Tom MacIntyre is supportive, saying that while he has met many voters who are “vehemently opposed” he has also encountered many others who “enthusiastically” support the windfarm. The other five – Andy Holt, Marion Hughson, Ian Tinkler, Theo Smith and incumbent Gary Robinson – are opposed for a variety of reasons including the project’s size, fears about environmental damage and the “huge financial risk” the investment entails.

The picture in the Central Mainland is more mixed. Ian Scott is comprehensively against the idea and detects “more than a whiff of the Smyril adventure here”. In the opposite camp, Scottish Christian Party man Peter Jamieson says he would “dare not rob the next generation” of the great prospects the windfarm could bring.

Others take a more nuanced position: David Sandison has misgivings but thinks the trust must “continue to invest its funds in the critical next stages” to maintain local control and influence, a view shared by John Hunter. Mark Burgess thinks a “more sophisticated” proposal could have minimised the size and served Shetland better.

South Mainland voters will be well aware of Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox’s vehement opposition. Second Christian candidate Andrew Shearer shares his party colleague’s support for the project, as does ex-Shetland College man George Smith. He thinks the windfarm proceeds could help tackle fuel poverty by funding home insulation.

In the North Mainland – where 24 turbines around Scatsta Airport and Brae have now been removed – candidates are again divided. Viking Energy director Alastair Cooper is “delighted” at consent being achieved, and Drew Ratter (closely involved in Viking’s embryonic stages) wants to ensure Shetland gets the best possible deal.

Davy Cooper is strongly opposed and is not convinced by the business model. Colin Arnot, Alan MacDonald and Jim Reyner are all sceptical to varying degrees.

In the North Isles, both Jim Johnston and Steven Coutts see the potential economic benefits and want to see funds ring-fenced to address spiralling fuel costs for householders. Gary Cleaver thinks the project lacks clarity, while Alan Skinner started off in favour but believes the projected returns are dubious.

Of the seven Lerwick North candidates, four – Viking director Caroline Miller (who is irked by “misinformation being peddled around Shetland”), Allan Wishart, Danus Skene and Malcolm Bell – stand in the pro camp. Michael Stout is opposed, while Bill Adams and Alex Wright are also distinctly unenthused, though the latter acknowledges the pragmatic case for the SCT remaining “in the driving seat” now that construction looks inevitable.

Lerwick South hopefuls are the most pro-Viking of any ward – Robbie Leith and Iain Morrison most strongly so, while Jonathan Wills and Peter Campbell think the trust should invest further. Amanda Westlake accepts Viking has been approved, but says a number of issues including the health impact must be addressed.

Below, we provide the views of those candidates who responded in full – scroll down to see the views of candidates in your ward.

SHETLAND NORTH (6 of 7)

COLIN ARNOT

I am a supporter of renewable energies and have been involved a number of schemes throughout the UK in recent years. So, in principle, I am pro wind generation.

I can see the benefits of additional wind turbines in Shetland, but I have concerns over the numbers proposed. I feel that Shetland, at least, should become self-sufficient in the production of energy for homes and businesses in the cleanest way possible.

We have a huge reliance on electricity here and I would like to explore ways of addressing fuel poverty as well as ensuring that new connections, essential to community development, are subsidised. I would therefore prefer a measured development for the benefit of Shetland. Sadly, I doubt if such aspirations are achievable without the higher “co-operation” of SSE and central government.

So, should the proposal proceed (in whatever numbers), I would push for greater community involvement in the development, rather than it be left to the SCT , Viking and the planners.

This is too big an issue not to have the ongoing involvement of a panel of Shetlanders, formally recognised as a key element in the process stages. That group, I would suggest, to be composed of a mix of non-Viking councillors, wildlife and environmental specialists as well as Shetland constituents. If then, a carefully policed development becomes a reality, perhaps that group should also have an input into the preferred use of any returns achieved, to ensure a fairness of distribution of benefit to the wider Shetland?

ALASTAIR COOPER

I am delighted Viking now has planning consent. As a director of Viking Energy you would expect nothing less. However, what I think of Viking is to some extent irrelevant. The windfarm has planning consent and it will happen. The question now is whether we invest in the windfarm and keep a substantial amount of the income it generates in Shetland or leave it to others to make the investment and reap the benefits.

I appreciate there are still some people with concerns about the windfarm, but I am confident once it is up and running the fears will be substantially allayed. We have to move on.

We have been the envy of others for years because a previous generation was smart enough to negotiate the oil monies. We were also ahead of the game in promoting a windfarm with substantial community ownership to help us maintain our lifestyle. We cannot afford to throw away such a fantastic opportunity.

The council will struggle to maintain the level of social care and education provision we currently enjoy. A financially strong Shetland Charitable Trust could substitute for the council. Viking could be the trust’s best income stream.

DAVY COOPER

Nothing has divided our community as much over the last few years as the chronic mishandling of the development of the Viking Energy windfarm project. The recent decision to allow planning permission to proceed without a public enquiry indicates to me that national policy is bent on the development of renewable energy regardless of the consequences to local communities.

This worries me, as does the prospect of risking large amounts of public money in something over which we may ultimately have no control. We are now in a position where we must balance that risk against the potential rewards and it seems to me that there are an awful lot of “assumptions” in the business model being proposed currently. I remain to be convinced that this is in any way a safe and judicious investment of money held in trust for the community. I believe there is significantly more work to be done regarding the business case and the environmental and health issues before I could give the project my support. In the long term I believe we need a diverse and self-sustaining economy not a dependency culture at the mercy of national government and the power companies.

ALAN MACDONALD

We are hearing from groups that are for and against the VE project and they both claim to be in the majority. Personally, I have doubts about the size of this project and the economics of wind turbines in general, we have to remember that their success is heavily dependent on government handouts which can change at any time.

A project of this size and of such a contentious nature needs to be put to the Shetland public to decide. We can consider two ways of doing this. We can hold a referendum to decide whether money which belongs to the people of Shetland should be invested in this project or we can use the council elections to do this by voting for the declared views of candidates. 

If the project works out successfully it will undoubtedly provide significant income to the people of Shetland via the community dividend that is paid. 

I believe that the project is over sized and too complicated to deliver without significant further investment. In addition we have to consider high levels of charge for using the interconnector. On balance I think the charitable trust should sell its holding at a profit and then we can focus on the single issue of whether we want the Shetland landscape to be changed forever. For once we should let the people of Shetland decide.

P.S. I am a director of the Shetland Community Benefit Fund Ltd which will oversee the payout of any future community dividend.

DREW RATTER

Now that the decision on the windfarm has been made, it is irrevocable, and should I be elected to the council, my focus will be twofold. As a councilor, I will make sure that the council scrutinizes the process of construction to the best of its ability, to see that the rigorous planning conditions which the minister has imposed are adhered to. That is, of course, a matter for officials on the ground.

As a trustee of the Shetland Charitable Trust, which all councillors will initially be, I will strive to see that Shetland gets the best possible deal out of the future operation of the windfarm. The charitable trust has many obligations, does a great deal of good in Shetland and will need all the income it can get over the coming period of overall decline in national public funding.

JIM REYNER

I have serious concerns over the whole issue of the funding for the project – who are the investors and who stands to benefit?

SSE say they are “on course to deliver further growth in dividend and adjusted profit with the continuing good progress in large capital projects”.

The accounts of Viking Wind Ltd. suggest their investment could be at risk.

The status of the charitable trust remains a source of argument and confrontation, and councillors involved have had their credibility questioned for not declaring a conflict of interest, whether pecuniary or not. That needs to be addressed and the functions of the council and the trust clearly separated, guaranteeing future transparency.

When the new council meets I would like them to:

1)            Establish, through independent legal advice, what options we have for future decision-making (if no options – we need to know)

2)            Work with ALL the people of Shetland to decide what is best for the future of our community (a referendum might be appropriate)

3)            Based on the above, take whatever action is necessary

There is no point in pointing fingers or crying over spilt milk – you can’t look forward if you’re always looking back!

 

LERWICK NORTH (7 of 7)

BILL ADAMS

It looks pretty much a done deal, although there are still some hurdles in the way. I do feel that Fergus Ewing, the energy minister, should have called a local public enquiry before exercising his prerogative to make the final yes/no decision. However I was not surprised by the outcome given the rush to meet the Scottish government’s ambitious green energy targets. I do note that the consent granted is for “up to” 103 turbines, which perhaps leaves a little bit of wriggle-room to address specific concerns regarding some of the turbine sites.
 
Should the windfarm go ahead as seems likely, it will create some jobs and will make a few people a lot of money. However, the trouble with trickle-down economics is how little of the wealth percolates down to the mass of people at the bottom of the social pyramid. We will not be getting lower electricity bills as a result of this.

I have always had concerns about the likely impact of the windfarm on operations at Scatsta Airport. Thankfully the minister has taken heed of the concerns expressed by Serco as the operators of the airport and refused permission for the 24 turbines in the vicinity of Scatsta. It should have been patently obvious to the Viking Energy people that erecting huge wind turbines on hilltops in close proximity to the airfield would not only interfere with the airport radar but would themselves constitute a serious hazard to flight safety. VE were alerted to the dangers years ago yet they persisted in seeking permission for those particular turbines right up to the last minute. In this respect I am glad that the final decision lay with the minister.

MALCOLM BELL

My view on the proposed Viking Energy windfarm is as follows :

1.    I support efforts to develop renewable technology, as oil and gas is a finite resource.  We owe this to our children.

2.    I have concerns about the size of the current proposal, the proximity of turbines to homes and the robustness of the Habitat Management Plan.  If elected, I will do everything to ensure the imposed planning conditions are met.

3.    Many things about this project have been poorly handled. Some at least, of the current concerns may have been avoided and acceptable compromise reached, had more sensitive and meaningful consultation taken place in the early stages.

4.    The Scottish government has made a decision to approve the project. I cannot therefore see any circumstances where the council would be able to reverse this. It will, in all probability, go ahead and we must deal with the situation we find ourselves in. 

5.    The worst possible option now, as I see it, would be to have a windfarm on our doorstep yet not have local control of and benefit from it.

6.    We have many obligations and services to provide and national public spending is declining. The whole Shetland community must benefit to the maximum. If elected, I will do all I can to ensure it does.

CAROLINE MILLER

What a surprise – “We are looking for candidates to declare where they stand, in no more than 200 words, on the Viking Energy windfarm” is the request I got from The Shetland Times today. Not where do you stand on the Blueprint for Education or the ferries review, not about our islands that are becoming old folks’ homes or about people being scared for their jobs.  Not where do you stand on Freefield and the elderly or how would you sort out our finances. No – it was a request about a project that has now received planning consent from the Scottish government and the council has no influence over. 

To answer the request – as a director of Viking Energy I am pleased that the project has received consent. What is not pleasing is the misinformation being peddled around Shetland and the belief that “trustees” thwarting the business of the trust will stop the project – NO IT WON’T.

The debate now is simple – should Shetland keep 50 per cent control over the project or not. Yes it should. That means maintaining an income for Shetland for decades – just like the oil and gas. And let’s face it, where would we be without that!

MICHAEL STOUT

Initially I was enthusiastic about the possibility of expanding windpower generation – having been involved with Fair Isle’s aerogenerators, and keen for Shetland to both contribute to green energy production and earn some community income.

However, as time has gone on, and more details of the scheme have emerged, I have become increasingly concerned. I don’t believe the green credentials hold up to scrutiny – the windfarm construction, infrastructure and decommissioning seems to put the carbon payback in some doubt at least, and the financial benefits largely depend on what level of subsidy is going to be available by the time it is built.

However, on a deeper level, I am even more concerned by what the windfarm symbolises. The strength of feeling, the deep divisions, and specifically the apparent single minded desperation from some to find an alternative cash cow which can replace our dependency on oil dollars. I am standing for election on the basis that we need to start using what we have much more wisely, take advantage of our unique situation (how would the Western Isles react to having several hundred million in the bank, 400 well paid jobs in the offing from the gas plant, some of the best infrastructure and services in the country, etc. etc.), and build on that. From that perspective, and considering the plethora of valid points raised by objectors, I have to be clear and state my opposition to Viking Energy’s plans. A public inquiry could have cleared up many issues – we are now in a situation where Shetland could well be submerged in giant windmills with little local control, uncertain benefits and massive financial risk. I would hope that there would be enough consensus within a new council to find a way to find a way forward on this and the related issue of charitable trust reform.

ALLAN WISHART

Nobody will be in any doubt about my position on Viking. My support and involvement with the project is well known – it’s something I’m very proud of. I believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Shetland. It puts us right at the forefront of a new and exciting industry – renewable energy. It will provide a very healthy income for the community which could be spent on keeping Shetland a great place to live. Housing, school and college facilities, care for the elderly and vulnerable, transport links, leisure facilities, environment and heritage – everything we value.

There were those who opposed oil coming to Shetland. Where are they now? Enjoying the benefits to Shetland that, thankfully, others could foresee at that time.

There’s a lot of heat and not very much light been generated in the last few weeks since consent was granted. Here are some facts. 

1.    The windfarm will go ahead whether or not the charitable trust decides to invest. 

2. Far from being a waste of money, as some would have you believe, the value of the trust’s investment in Viking has already multiplied many times since it got the government’s green light.

DANUS SKENE

The Viking windfarm is a positive option for Shetland. The work starts now on getting the environmental, engineering and financial details right.

Environmentally, the big argument in favour of the project stands firm through all the fog of controversy. A windfarm provides sustainable energy that replaces the burning of fossil fuels. Challenges that are posed to peatlands and to specific bird species can be addressed through good environmental planning: we must keep these relatively limited problems in perspective compared to the gains.

Financially, the Viking project offers the Shetland community huge benefits. The community’s 45 per cent gives us a bigger stake in a substantial sustainable energy project than other communities anywhere in the UK. Community revenue of (conservatively) £20 million a year will allow us to sustain high quality services in the post-oil era, to support local small business development and to reduce our energy costs. The project should allow us to end fuel poverty in Shetland.

What we must do now in relation to the windfarm is work together, led by the new council, to ensure:

  • That best practice guidelines on the minimum distance of windmills from houses are enforced;
  • The extensive and well-researched environmental plan associated with the development is implemented fully;
  • That the financial benefits to the community are well managed in a fully transparent manner;
  • That short term revenue problems in SIC (“the cuts”) are managed in proper awareness of the recovery that will be possible in a few years.

ALEX WRIGHT

I can only express my disappointment at the Viking Energy windfarm being given the go-ahead by Holyrood. I have always felt that this project is far too big a risk to be taking, and that it is the result of unacceptable conflicts of interest in the council.

The opinions of people who will be living in close proximity to these windmills have been ignored, and no attention paid to their harmful effects. The subsidies to solar power have recently been halved, and should this happen to wind energy projects too, we may find ourselves with a very expensive burden scarring our beautiful landscape. However, this recent development means that, unfortunately, the windfarm is likely to be realised. While I would very much like to see it reduced in scale and location, we must make sure that the SIC and the charitable trust are in the driving seat if it must go ahead. To let it happen without our involvement would be folly, depriving us of control and the much-promised revenue. I may disagree with the project, but I disagree with the concept of it being realised without Shetland having some control over it even more.

 

LERWICK SOUTH

PETER CAMPBELL

We are now in a position following the Scottish government’s granting planning approval, where the Viking Energy project will proceed, whether one likes it or not. What is vital now for Shetland is that the maximum benefit possible is achieved for the Shetland community to support the services which we desire. It is imperative that the reserve fund is not used as security for any loans required to further the project nor that the charitable trust’s funds are used to finance the project’s construction.

If the project proves to be as productive as has been indicated, we should look forward to a bright future in which we should see economic development within Shetland offering high quality job opportunities for our young people.

While it can be argued that only a small part of Shetland’s land mass will have wind turbines as the result of the Viking Energy  development, I would be opposed to further industrial scale windfarm developments and favour attention being focussed on wave and tidal energy projects

ROBBIE LEITH

The newly elected council will have to deal with the issue of the windfarm. I now state that I am in support of this development including future wave and tidal renewables and offshore wind.

Over the centuries Shetland has suffered from gales and high winds for most of each year, and now we have a means of harnessing this endless supply of clean, natural, free power with a huge financial benefit to these islands and everyone in it.

This is not a nuclear power plant. These are windmills.

They have an initial lifespan of 25 years and as other forms of wind and wave energy are developed and added to the grid, these can simply be decommissioned and dismantled, leaving only good roads to these hilltop vantage points, giving us access to views up until now inaccessible to most of us.

We must consider the much needed job creation, both in the installation and running of the windfarm, and while some specialised skills will be needed, as far as possible we must ensure local labour is used.

Finally, maybe we should consider making a small percentage of the shares available to all of us to lay as a nest egg.

IAIN MORRISON

At a time where we are facing cuts in essential services we must look seriously at developments such as the present Viking Energy project.

Should we invest I see the following benefits for our community:

  • Around £30 million boost to our economy which could be spent on community projects such as the threatened Lunch Club.
  • Jobs creation, we need jobs in Shetland to arrest depopulation which I believe is currently around 200 per annum.
  • Shetland will be a major player in energy provision providing a strong political fulcrum over UK and mainland Scotland. This will put us in a very strong bargaining position in the future.

The projected dividend, should the charitable trust advance additional funding, would be in the region of 17 times total funds invested.

In the current economic climate it would be folly not to make further investment in this vital emerging industry, which is fully backed by the SNP government. The number of turbines has been scaled back and a 50 point mandatory environmental plan has been imposed.

Ultimately we MUST move away from fossil fuels and nuclear. My ambition is to see Shetland in the vanguard of renewable generation for the generations to come.

AMANDA WESTLAKE

I am fully supportive of renewable energy in all forms. However, I strongly believe that each project must be judged on its own merits. While accepting that the Viking Energy project has been approved and set in principal, there are a number of outstanding issues that need to be addressed, for example there are concerns that no feasibility reports have been carried out on the health of those who would be living in close proximity to the turbines. I believe that that there must be a mixture of sustainable energy generation such as wind, wave, solar and bio mass, but at the same the economic growth to our community, must be balanced with our responsibility to the environment.

JONATHAN WILLS

As the windfarm does now have planning consent, this community has to decide whether or not we want a share of the profits, for us to spend on care of the elderly, on sports and leisure, the environment and the arts, or whether we’re content to see the lion’s share go to an international capitalist corporation with no particular interest in Shetland other than as a source of cash, in which case there would be only a few millions shared by grazings committees, community councils and the council as a landowner.

I still think the windfarm is too big; I still think it’s in the wrong place; and I still think there should have been a public inquiry. But I also still think that, on balance, it will benefit these islands and therefore, if re-elected as a councillor and if invited to return to a seat on the trust, I intend to continue to support the trust’s involvement in it, for good social as well as environmental reasons.

 

NORTH ISLES (4 of 5)

GARY CLEAVER

Having been asked by The Shetland Times to state my views on the Viking Energy windfarm project, I will reply as I have on the occasions that the subject has been raised in conversation with North Isles folk.

If the promised income from the windfarm secures the future of our rural schools, keeping children within their own communities; if as young adults they have the opportunity to pursue well paid careers in a growing energy sector; I can only accept the project.  

However, if the project fails and in so doing ruins the finances of the charitable trust, all of us will lose.

The decision to commit fully to the project lays in the hands of the charitable trust alone. The SIC has no input other than on planning issues. When planning applications are made to council strict procedures must be followed. If bias or favour influence the decision making process, they will certainly be challenged.

My concern is that, thus far, the supporting evidence for the project lacks clarity and that Viking Energy has failed to engage sufficiently with its critics.

ALAN SKINNER

I started off as a supporter of the project, because I want Shetland to be in the vanguard of renewables. However, I have become increasingly concerned about the way the Shetland Charitable Trust has been behaving.

My concerns are as follows:

1) There are major conflicts of interest, with so many councillors/trustees being involved with VE.

2) Onshore windfarms do not make financial sense without huge subsidies. I know that is true of all renewables, but I worry about a change of government and a change of strategy.

3) I do not believe the valuations that have been waved about by SCT and I do not believe that future revenue is guaranteed. Again, my concern is change of government. If our current stake is worth £58m, then let’s sell one third of it now. When we have received £20m, I may believe the valuation.

5) Who is really making money from this project?

6) The proposed project just seems intuitively too big.

However, I am also concerned that the anti-Viking protesters would be against any windfarm, even if it were 25 or 50 turbines.

In 10 years’ time, I do not want to look at 103 redundant turbines, generating zero income for Shetland and despoiling the landscape, and think “we should never have allowed that”.

JIM JOHNSTON

I see the proposed development by Viking Energy as being very similar to the discovery of oil and gas around Shetland in the last century. The development of Sullom Voe also divided opinion at the time. What would Shetland be like now if we hadn’t embraced the terminal then and it went to Orkney?

I feel for the residents of the area that will have the windfarm around them but we must embrace this development for the good of the whole Shetland community. With up to £20m possibly coming into the funds each year we can do a lot with this locally.

I would be happier if we ring-fenced some of the funds each year to decrease individual household fuel bills. Let the money benefit the many. As windfarms are better for the environment than other methods of energy production let us use the money to; insulate homes and make them draft-proof, support the development of small community turbines across the county and create jobs.

This is too good an opportunity to pass up.

STEVEN COUTTS

Taking a step back I believe the project has been badly handled and the SIC should have triggered a public inquiry when they had the chance, and might have lessened the divisions that currently exists.

I do have a number of concerns over the project, predominantly the scale and the proximity of turbines to households. The project however has the potential to contribute significantly to reducing fossil fuel consumption and help stimulate further development of the renewable sector. This includes community led schemes meeting local needs and also research and development work to look at energy storage from intermittent sources such as wind generation.

On balance, I therefore support the project, but with several conditions. The Habitat Management Plan must be strong and adhered to. A significant percentage of income generated must be ring fenced to deal with energy efficiency and fuel poverty. I would also like to see an independent Health Impact Assessment commissioned.

There is no denying that I would prefer to see the hills left as they are but I have yet to hear a viable alternative to dealing with our fossil fuel “addiction” which will give future generations the same opportunities as we currently have.

 

SHETLAND WEST (6 of 7)

ANDY HOLT

I have been against the Viking Energy project from day one. Leaving aside the despoiling of one of Scotland’s great wilderness areas, the behaviour of councillors has only served to convince me of the fundamental unsoundness of the scheme.

It appears to me that for councillors to sit on the board of Viking Energy and continue to serve on the council or serve as a trustee of the charitable trust and be a sitting councillor and on the board of Viking Energy presents us, the Shetland public, with fundamental questions regarding conflict of interest.

It is not, in my opinion, the correct role for the council or the trust, to enter into business partnerships with multinationals or individuals. The council’s job is to protect the interests of the Shetland people as a whole while encouraging a climate conducive to business enterprise. Neither the council nor the trust should be handing out millions of our money in fat fees for consultants and lawyers with nothing on the ground to show for it. Shetland people are enterprising folk and patient to a fault but I believe have grown sick of the profligacy and wasteful spending of the last few years.

MARION HUGHSON

1.    Viking Energy windfarm is a high risk venture. We should not be funding this project from our charitable trust, our investment from this fund should be secured funding. This is not a community windfarm, we have a stake of 45 per cent. It is a high risk project just being thought out as the stages develop.

2.    The proposed area for building these windmills is the wettest area of moorland in Shetland and no-one knows the commitment or monies required for this extravaganza. 

3.    The proposed turbines have not been tested in Shetland the only ones tested are the smaller ones at Veensgarth, Tingwall (Burradale). Judging by the fact that several windmills have come to grief in Shetland may mean that conditions in Shetland are unsuitable for the proposed size of windmill.

4.     The proposed windfarm will require four acres of ground mostly for concrete for each windmill. The roads will have to be able to support the weight of the transport to take each windmill’s parts to their destination then larger cranes will have to travel to the site to erect the windmills.      

Tidal turbines will be the way forward in the future then that will be when we progress with our energy supply. I would cancel the payment of £6 million from the charitable trust as this will set a pattern of asking for money for years to come.

TOM MACINTYRE

As I have stated since the outset of the election campaign, I am in favour of the windfarm which now it has the government’s “green light”, and of the charitable trust’s involvement in it (although I am uncomfortable with the scale of it). But, to repeat what I said in my initial candidate’s statement, this new industry must be of benefit to the whole of Shetland, in terms of future economic development. It is my view that the harnessing of our natural resources – wave, wind and tidal power – will be key to this, and people must decide if they wish to embrace the principles of renewable energy, and have their fair share of the profits, the resulting revenue and jobs.

Of course, I have engaged with many on the Westside over these past two weeks who are vehemently opposed to the windfarm, and given their proximity to the proposed installations, I do understand their anxieties. But I have also met many others, also on the Westside, who enthusiastically support the windfarm, and who have pointed out to me that it is not unreasonable to want the community to benefit, as we all will – elderly care, roads, transport, education, employment, leisure centres and sports projects, the arts etc. I am very heartened that people are thinking beyond their own needs to the future of their children and their grand-children in Shetland.

GARY ROBINSON

My position on the Viking Energy project has been consistent since the SIC meeting in December 2010 where the response to the Energy Consents Unit was debated. The council’s head of planning presented what I considered to be a well reasoned report which recommended that the council should object to the proposal on the grounds that amongst other things “the applicant has not demonstrated that this development could be undertaken without unacceptable environmental impact”.

I moved a motion in support of the recommendation and found support from Frank Robertson, Florence Grains and Jonathan Wills although Dr Wills was prevented from voting on the matter due to the fact that he’d stated his position prior to the meeting and thus, would have been in breach of the Code of Conduct. The other nine members present proceeded to ignore the head of planning’s report and recommended approval of the project on the basis that it would make lots of money.

I subsequently wrote to the energy minister to highlight my concerns regarding the short-comings of the democratic process, something others have described as the “Democratic Deficit”, but never received the courtesy of a reply.

The charitable trust is supposed to look after the wellbeing of all of Shetland’s inhabitants. There is no caveat that allows some to benefit at the expense of others. So, in short, I do not support the Viking Energy windfarm – it’s too big and it encroaches too heavily upon settlements in Aith, Weisdale and Nesting.

THEO SMITH

I have three main concerns about Viking Energy which lead me to be opposed to the project.

It is a huge financial risk and I do not agree that charitable trust reserves should be used for this sort of development.

The sheer scale of the development is particularly intimidating to the people who live in Aith, Weisdale and Nesting and they are naturally worried about their health and also what it may do to the value of their properties. Not only that but what will it do to our tourism industry which got such a boost from the Simon King programmes?

I fear that if this goes ahead and an interconnector cable is built it will trigger landowners setting up smaller windfarms everywhere which will further blight the landscape and set people against each other.

This has been the most divisive issue I can ever remember in Shetland. Some people relate it to being like oil coming to Shetland. That’s nonsense. For a start the sheer visual impact of this far exceeds anything the oil industry built and Shetland wasn’t asked to put a huge amount of money at risk.

IAN TINKLER

I implacably oppose Viking Energy. I fully support renewable energy where practical, but this must be conditional on it not damaging our precious environment. Viking Energy represents the very worst option and practise for Shetland. Severe environmental damage, endangering threatened species and destroying rare ecosystems.

There are multiple conflicts of financial interest damaging the integrity of the council and charitable trust. The very existence of the charitable trust is being put at risk, both financially and ethically. Dishonest statements by Viking Energy are already being highlighted by the Trading Standards authority. Very poor planning resulting in an ever shrinking project (now to be reduced by a further 24 turbines). Viking Energy represents the tip of a very large iceberg. Many more windfarms proposed and 1,000 square miles of offshore generation around Shetland alone. Multiple converter stations cables and pylons all over Shetland. There are far better and more equitable options, for delivering renewable power to Shetland. At fraction of the cost of the Viking project, we could equip every home in Shetland with solar panels and or small individual turbines: This would free Shetlanders from power bills and keeping all funds in Shetland for Shetlander’s.

 

SOUTH MAINLAND (3 of 4)

BILLY FOX

My opposition to Viking Energy has been clear for the last five years; it remains unchanged despite a dubious planning consent being granted. It is a disgrace that a public inquiry has not been held.

The project is all about money. It is a speculative venture which the Shetland Islands Council and the charitable trust should never have allowed to get this far.

It falls down on every count, no green credentials, economically extremely risky, and in terms of national energy supply unreliable. Large scale windfarms are driven by huge subsidies mainly in the form of Renewable Energy Certificates which come directly out of the electricity consumers’ pocket. 

The way this project has been approached from day one has been an affront to democracy. It has ridden roughshod over the majority concerns of the Shetland public and particularly the folk directly affected.

Scaremongering tactics employed by VE are just another example of these tactics.  If this project was ever built there is no doubt in my mind it would be the most detrimental development ever seen in Shetland. Windfarms would spring up throughout the islands and the council would have no ability to control it.

ANDREW SHEARER

Scottish Christian Party candidates Peter Jamieson and Andrew Shearer for Shetland Central and Shetland South respectively agree, now that there has been a decision on the proposal for a windfarm, we must press ahead positively. Our fear is that yet again, we may endure a long, prolonged and divisive campaign on both sides to have their own way. We believe this will confirm the already damaged reputation of our council, and further distress and dismay in our own community.

For that reason, we support the onward progress of the windfarm, and would seek to reconcile fears raised by Sustainable Shetland. However, voters in Shetland ought to be aware, that although on another occasion Mr Fox might make an admirable councillor, a vote for Mr Fox in this election will grant him a mandate to end this project, and a future economic resurgence in Shetland.

This project offers opportunities for our young people to stay on these islands. The process of preparation, building, maintaining and development of the windfarm will necessarily demand a range of skills. We dare not rob the next generation of these opportunities. With joined-up thinking, and creative responses from our excellent college and schools we can make much of this.

GEORGE SMITH

Now that the decision has been taken to grant planning permission for the Viking windfarm, I believe that the windfarm will proceed unless Scottish and Southern Energy decide that it is not financially worth their while. That being the case, the worst thing that can happen is for them to proceed on their own with any monies generated going out of Shetland and there being little chance to influence the project as it develops. I have a great deal of sympathy and concern for those households within close proximity of the windfarm and would want to do whatever is possible to mitigate the worst effects of the windfarm.

Shetland has enjoyed a high quality of life over the last 35 years mainly derived from oil revenues. I would hope that future generations can enjoy a similar quality of life and therefore would wish to see any revenues accruing to the council or charitable trust from the windfarm being used sensibly e.g. to tackle fuel poverty through insulating homes, to create jobs , to care for the elderly, to keep the leisure centres open and so on – many of the things that we may not be able to do otherwise.

 

SHETLAND CENTRAL (5 of 6)

MARK BURGESS

I have always believed that Viking Energy was not the best renewables solution for Shetland, although being in favour of renewables and wind turbines to an extent. Surplus capacity in the interconnector, though initially denied, will mean more windfarms will come. A more sophisticated proposal would have better served Shetland, with subsequent renewables projects factored into justification of the interconnector, further minimising the VE site itself.

The project should also have been open to local share ownership. This would promote a sense of ownership that would make any development more palatable, following the Norwegian model of inward local investment. This would also potentially provide an income to locals that may go some way to mitigate the increased energy costs, taxation and community charges that will result from this and other subsidised wind energy developments. As it stands, however, VE may result in a situation where the majority of locals will be surrounded by wonderful amenities that they can less afford to use. I have higher hopes for the community benefit fund. If VE were stopped, the research done will be useful for smaller scale development on the site. Like any new product, the proposal should be tested to destruction before release.

JOHN HUNTER

Viking Energy is the most divisive topic in Shetland politics at the moment. Fergus Ewing’s announcement granting consent has brought things to a head. The failure of the charitable trust to agree a way forward means the new trustees will have a lot to absorb before they can make a reasoned decision.

Points against the Viking windfarm

  • It is too big and will dominate the landscape.
  • It will open the floodgates for Shetland being covered in more windfarms.
  • We may be destroying our environment for the sake of a quick buck.
  • The construction phase will be a tremendous environmental upheaval.

Points for Viking Energy

  • The interconnector opens up the possibility of other forms of alternative energy being developed.
  • The profits and the Community Fund will benefit Shetland.
  • A least one major bank considers the risks worthwhile.

I feel that the negative points far outweigh the positive. However as it has been granted permission we have to deal with it becoming a reality. My opinion is that the charitable trust must continue to invest and keep local control. We need to get as much out of as we can rather than see the profits go out the South Mouth.

PETER JAMIESON

Scottish Christian Party candidates Peter Jamieson and Andrew Shearer for Shetland Central and Shetland South respectively agree, now that there has been a decision on the proposal for a windfarm, we must press ahead positively. Our fear is that yet again, we may endure a long, prolonged and divisive campaign on both sides to have their own way. We believe this will confirm the already damaged reputation of our council, and further distress and dismay in our own community.

For that reason, we support the onward progress of the windfarm, and would seek to reconcile fears raised by Sustainable Shetland. However, voters in Shetland ought to be aware, that although on another occasion Mr Fox might make an admirable councillor, a vote for Mr Fox in this election will grant him a mandate to end this project, and a future economic resurgence in Shetland.

This project offers opportunities for our young people to stay on these islands. The process of preparation, building, maintaining and development of the windfarm will necessarily demand a range of skills. We dare not rob the next generation of these opportunities. With joined-up thinking, and creative responses from our excellent college and schools we can make much of this.

DAVID SANDISON

Shetland is well placed to take advantage of our resources in the field of renewable energy and I have long held the view we need to be connected to the UK grid to allow this potential. On Viking Energy, I will need to be firstly convinced of the strength of the business case in committing to Shetland’s share of the funds required.

The recent approval of planning consent has ensured the investment of Shetland money so far has secured a value far in excess of that committed. I have some misgivings over the size of the development but am also clear it needs to be of sufficient scale to justify investment in the interconnector, thus allowing these islands opportunities for further, future use of our marine renewable potential.

On the environmental concerns, I believe that these can be controlled and managed by strong adherence to best practices and a high level of development oversight. I believe Viking Energy Partnership have failed to properly inform and assure the community on the status of the promised Health Impact Assessment and that this is an essential building block for gaining public trust in the project. This is where the community partnership via Shetland Charitable Trust is imperative as we will be able to have a large say in the implementation process. The trust must continue to invest its funds in the critical next stages of the development as to not do so would hand control and influence away from Shetland entirely.    

IAN SCOTT

On the face of it, it looks a great idea – multinational companies uniting with local Shetland initiatives, a few wind turbines here and there, green energy, lots of jobs, everyone a winner,  and the Lang Kames – hardly a beauty spot is it? And with the seeming blessing of the Lord Lieutenant, surely a bright future.

What a load of twaddle. There is certainly more than a whiff of the Smyril adventure here, with a good dose of the Mareel to go with it.

To be honest I neither trust, nor believe, what Viking Energy and its partners have to say. We’ve been blinded by the lure of untold riches and have been gulled into believing we are helping the environment. I sincerely believe that green, sustainable energies have to be our goals, but this project is certainly not part of them.

These companies have as much interest in our environment as I have in Royal appointments.  We are in grave danger of selling out completely to our multinational friends, and before we know it, the deal will be different to the one promised, and, like the Smyril fiasco, we will be hung out to dry.

36 of 43 candidates responded. No replies from: Frank Robertson, Allison Duncan, Robert Henderson, Cecil Smith, Jim Henry, Vaila Wishart, Andrea Manson.

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5 comments

  1. Davie Sandison

    Oh Dear, your correspondant needs to check the electoral ward boundaries! The Central Ward doesn’t include the residents of Nesting. The Ward stretches from Girlsta in the north to Burra in the south – Nesting is part of the North Ward.

    Reply
  2. John N Hunter

    Nesting is in the North ward, no Viking turbines are planned for the Central ward.

    Reply
  3. Sarah Georgeson

    Is Caroline Miller trying to offend everyone with her attitude, so she doesn’t get re-elected?

    Reply
  4. Billy Fox

    I’m puzzled why the Scottish Christian Party is panicking. If elected I would be one councillor among twenty two and one trustee among twenty four.

    No problem there surely?

    Reply
  5. Robert Sim

    As a Lerwick North voter, I share Sarah Georgeson’s reaction to Caroline Miller’s contribution. But I will take Ms Miller’s contribution at face value and assume that she is indeed keen to tell me and my fellow Lerwick North voters what her views are on the various topics she lists as alternatives to the subject of the windfarm. Everyone deserves a fair hearing.

    Reply

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