Jeopardising an opportunity (Allan Wishart)

True to form, Sustainable Shetland plans to throw any spanner in the works in its attempts to delay the Viking Energy development. 

It seems inconceivable that a relatively small group of islanders will do anything to jeopardise an opportunity to harness a natural resource which can be of huge benefit to Shetland and its inhabitants.  Here could be the chance for Shetland Charitable Trust to finance fixed links to Bressay, Whalsay, Unst and Yell.  Here as well  is an amazing opportunity to deal with ‘fuel poverty’ by providing insulation and double glazing, as other communities near wind farms have done.  Provision for disadvantaged, elderly and indeed all less fortunate islanders could be within our means.  Education?  Yes, of course it needs an overhaul – would that not be so much easier with better transport links? 

As Jonathan Wills’ remarks on Radio Shetland have revealed, any positive views about Viking Energy are dismissed and ridiculed by the same people trotting out the same rubbish about the damage to Shetland’s landscape, peat, wildlife and so on.  Important as they are, those issues have all been rigorously vetted and approved by the relevant organisations that have the authority and expertise to do so. 

 

Billy Fox: Move is "jumping the gun".

Billy Fox.

But at last, the real Billy Fox has stood up!  Deputy leader of all Shetland.  Apparently he knows better than anyone else the future of the inter-connector cable, the future of renewables in Shetland and the future of the islands’ living standards.  He mentioned some time ago that we’d all have to be willing to “tighten the belt” presumably to enable Shetland to live on the diminishing annual handout from central government.

Not much evidence has been seen so far of any bold proposals from Billy to live within our reducing means.  Forget all about fixed links and all the other benefits that could come from renewables if Billy’s fanatical opposition to Viking and an inter-connector cable succeeds. Let’s hope his senior colleagues at the Town Hall are equally forthright in reminding him of council policy regarding renewables. 

So much is at stake.  If we in Shetland don’t move forward in support of Viking Energy, there will be a scrabble among the corporates to grab this opportunity from us and take the rewards that go with it. 

Allan Wishart

Seafield Lodge,
Lower Sound,
Lerwick.

18 comments

  1. Allen Fraser

    Great advice from the man who brought us the Bressay Brig fiasco – just how many schools did that cost the SIC?

    Advice from the chair of a Zet Trans that is so well thought out that it requires three busses to come from Lerwick to transport seven people from Scalloway and Burra to Lerwick on a recent 1310 service and one person to Burra. A Zet Trans where the new interisland ferry online booking service doesn’t have the island of Unst in it at all and doesn’t allow return journeys between Unst and Fetlar on Mondays.

    Yes indeed – Alan Wishart is the just man whose vision and judgement for the future of Shetland and its environment cannot be called into question.

    Reply
  2. Suzy Jolly

    Where have you been for the last decade? Double-glazing and thermal insulation packages have been around for a long time, well before windfarms were invented. A Government doesn’t need a windfarm to introduce such incentives.

    Besides, fuel poverty isn’t all about dealing with the energy efficiency of a property; doing away with the subsidies to electricity companies for green energy would go a long way to addressing it plus we’re already paying for such a subsidiary so tell me, WHY should Shetlanders be expected to pay TWICE – in the forms of what they are already paying via their electricity bills and via the SCT funds?

    Don’t lecture me or others on Council Policy – I recall some Councillors decided to ignore Planning policy regarding VE in the first place.

    Billy Fox, IMHO, is a breath of fresh air.

    Reply
  3. Stewart Mac

    Interesting Cllr Wishart chose to jump to the defence of Cllr Wills, plainly both know better than residents elsewhere.

    Correct me if I am wrong however but don’t both represent constituencies that would benefit directly/indirectly from VE but without having the detrimental impact of the turbines sited within their constituencies? (he does mention a fixed link to Bressay, even after the Council have repeatedly dismissed this option). It is significantly easier, in political terms to support a scheme that has little negative effects on your constituents, but what would I know?

    If they actually wanted to, the VE proposed sites could easily be moved to more appropriate locations, after all there’s certainly enough uninhabited areas of Shetland that could potentially support turbine clusters but no, that would involve an additional monetary cost, a tangible quantifiable entity. Health/environmental costs however are, initially at least, intangible and as such far easier to dismiss. Nevertheless if VE/SIC/CT actually wanted a solution to break the deadlock then one is before them but rather than explore or implement one, they would rather spend the money on legal fees. Since the Councillors are privy to information not necessarily in the public domain please Cllr Wishart & Cllr Wills, tell us how many turbines could have been moved for the £600,000 in legal fees being bandied about? 1? 10? Do tell

    Here’s a wee suggestion, all the Councilors who are so vehemently defending the integrity of VE and in turn critising/demeaning those for exercising their democratic right (remember that?) to object – let’s see you all move to the houses planned to be closest to the proposed turbines, maintaining your support as you do. Please, come forward and put your money (or more accurately your health & the amenity) where your collective mouths are – I dare you, Nae I double dare you

    Reply
  4. Alan Skinner

    I would love to know who has sold the Viking Energy concept so successfully to our councillors. Mr Wishart and Dr Wills demonstrate fanatical zeal in their belief in this investment. I have never seen an independent valuation, by a serious practitioner, that would support this fanatical zeal. If there is such a valuation available, please let us see it. If not, perhaps we could sell a small part of our existing holding to demonstrate the “scrabble among the corporates to grab this opportunity and take the rewards”. I am not against Viking Energy, but I simply do not believe that the scale of investment risk is suitable for Shetland Charitable Trust.

    Alan Skinner
    New House
    Cullivoe

    Reply
  5. Johan Adamson

    Allan, If you could guarantee some of these benefits to Shetlanders and find out exactly who and how many are opposed, that might go some way to alleviate this problem.

    Reply
  6. Chris Williams

    Hopefully the planning department will take a good look at the landslips over the weekend, what will stop the wnd turbines slipping down the nextime we have torrential rain lasting for a few days! Not just a few hours? Still no doubt the people pushing for Viking Energy do not have houses in the vacinity of their planned wind turbines, just dreaming of the money they will make for their own pockets.

    Reply
  7. Billy Fox

    I have searched and asked for the minutes of the meeting where the council debated and took the decision to lobby for an interconnector, which the council does rather obliquely in Our Islands Our Future and our Corporate Plan. So far I have been unsuccessful in establishing where this occurred!

    The next step therefore, is to have that debate and decide if the majority of councillors really do want to bring industrialised renewables to Shetland, or develop renewables for Shetland alone in keeping with the scale of our landscape. We owe it to the public to let them see which side of the fence incumbent councillors sit on.

    I won’t even begin to respond to the ex Viking Energy Project Co-ordinator’s utterances as he hoists himself once more on the long running wave of euphoria and desperately tries to keep his balance through the mire of misleading nonsense which has been trotted out over the last few years.

    Instead I would suggest, in my opinion, his last term spent in the Gutter’s Hut would have been better spent doing the job he was elected to do. Only now with the benefit of new members are we beginning to sort out the mess he was involved in as chair/vice-chair of Environment & Transport and ZetTrans, whilst drawing a significant salary promoting the biggest and most damaging fantasy ever proposed for our islands.

    And, by the way, as you all well know, the real Billy Fox has never stood down!

    Billy Fox
    Quarff

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Well said, Billy.

      Your views are well known, ever since your chairmanship do SuS, resigning to give Tavish a scare by standing against him on a one-issue ticket in the last election and finally standing successfully as a councillor.

      Allan’s Wishart’s above comment is a travesty, especially, when it comes from one of those who sat on SCT while employed in a key post at Viking Energy.

      If the SIC’s “smoke and mirror’ calculations on school closures are indicative of the way things have been done across the Council, then you will have your work cut out.

      Reply
  8. John Tulloch

    I’m pleased to see Allan Wishart recognises the importance of fixed (road tunnel) links to the island communities.

    Road tunnels are believed to, largely, pay for themselves from savings on ferry services and as such, should be funded by government. Such projects would very likely attract grant assistance from the EU.

    Given the cost savings, business advantages and obvious enhancement of island life, this could have been negotiated, had they had the gumption, by ‘Our Islands, Our Future’, instead of submarine cables which may well never come to pass and which they haven’t even the face to claim the credit for.

    Now we are told the submarine cables and Viking Energy will bring the road tunnels!

    SCT could investigate the feasibility of such investments now, however, they have a different kind of ‘tunnel vision’ – one in which wind turbines are filling a pot of gold at the end of a rapidly receding rainbow.

    Reply
  9. Jonathan Wills

    Billy’s search can be stood down

    Billy Fox, the SIC Deputy Leader, says he has “searched and asked for the minutes of the meeting where the council debated and took the decision to lobby for an interconnector [cable]”.

    If he reads the Shetland Community Plan, to which he raised no objection when it was considered by the council, he will find it commits the SIC and its partners to “lobby National Grid to install [a] 650MW (or larger) interconnector by 2018″.

    Section 4.2 of the council’s Economic Development Plan, approved on 12th March this year by the Development Committee, of which Billy is a member, commits the SIC to “support local efforts to establish an interconnector between Shetland and the UK mainland”. The reference is online at:
    http://www.shetland.gov.uk/coins/viewSelectedDocument.asp?c=e%97%9Dc%96r%7D%8A

    The minutes of the meeting show that Billy was present. If there was no debate, perhaps it was because he did not start one, either at the committee or at the subsequent full council meeting which approved the Development Committee’s report, under our open and democratic system.

    If Billy now wishes to change council policy on the cable, he is welcome to try. But he surely cannot do so while remaining as Deputy Leader, because in that office his job is to support and promote democratically agreed council policy, not to sabotage it.

    So perhaps he really should “stand down”, after all. The disgraceful attack on Allan Wishart’s record of service as transport chair is in any case sufficient reason for the Deputy Leader to “consider his position”, I would have thought.

    Reply
    • Suzy Jolly

      Surely if there were true Minutes of the Meeting they would indicate if a debate had taken place? You don’t mean to tell us that all these Minutes floating around the town hall are really Notes of Meetings, do you, JW? ‘A discussion took place’ – Notes of Meeting. ‘Fred Bloggs said X Y Z and Joe Smith agreed’ – Minutes of Meeting.

      I know who I would rather step down and it sure as hell is NOT Billy Fox!

      Reply
  10. David Spence

    It does not surprise me that Mr Wishart is attempting to justify a project that is not, in any way shape or form, financially viable to the Shetland Community and more than likely will leave the Charitable Trust completely bankrupt.

    I would like to know what money, of his own, Mr Wishart has invested in the VEP? As well as this, I would like to see figures showing what other people (individuals)/companies as a percentage of the projected total cost as investors have contributed to this project (with and without the cost of the Interconnector Cable)?

    VEP has already bled £10 million out of Shetland’s money (mainly been used to pay wages, I believe………Why should Shetlander’s pay VEP Staff wages (it is like paying staff of a shop a wage before the shop/business has even been built)??????) and has absolutely nothing whatsoever to show for it?

    So Mr Wishart, please inform the Shetland public how much of your own money has gone into the VEP, and if you can provide a web-link or other sources as to what, not only of yourself, but this of financial contributions from other persons or companies towards the VEP, I would be most grateful…….as I am sure many other Shetland people will be.

    Reply
  11. Billy Fox

    In his letter ‘Billy’s search can be stood down’, Jonathan Wills has very helpfully given examples of how the council ‘policy’ on an interconnector has been presented and sits in various plans almost as a fait accompli, which is exactly my point.  Not once in past councils or this one have we specifically debated and taken a decision with regard to an interconnector cable and its implications, on such a major issue that is where my concern lies.
     
    We owe it to the Shetland public to do so, the commercial viability of a large scale interconnector requires a critical mass of renewables far exceeding the proposed Viking Energy wind farm.  Westminster and Holyrood have set a political agenda which essentially would turn our islands into an industrialised landscape of renewable electricity for export to mainland Scotland.  Is that acceptable?
     
    With regard to VE, another pressing question which needs answering is the view held by the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator on the Shetland Charitable Trust’s level of investment.  If indeed OSCR do have a limiting view, how long has the SCT been aware of this and why has this information not been made available to the council and the public?  Jonathan Wills could answer this as vice chair of SCT and I ask that question as a beneficiary of the SCT and member of the Shetland public.
     
    Billy Fox
    Quarff

    Reply
    • Luke holt

      If you vote yes this September you are ensuring Viking Energy goes ahead whatever. The SNP government has named Shetland as it’s renewable Golden Goose. ( or mega turbine hell as we will know it) Keep going Billy.
      Luke Holt

      Reply
      • Brian Smith

        The vote in September is about independence for Scotland, not about electing a government. I think this has been mentioned previously.

      • John Tulloch

        Will a Scottish Labour government stop the VE project, Brian?

    • Johan Adamson

      OSCR may not have told SCT to limit its investment in VE, but they may have advised it, as it would be a part of good investment advice to hold a balanced portfolio of investment and not put all your eggs in one basket. Also, owning more than a certain percentage of something might also make you into a Group and have to consolidate your accounts, and that may affect your charitable status. That is another reason why these rules are in place. But SCT should know this as there was a previous dispute about the SIC consolidating accounts with the SCT. Presumably that is why there are all these different structures, which are overly complicated like VE the partnership and VE the Company? Whatever it is, we should be allowed to know what the position is.

      Reply
  12. Robert Wishart

    Billy asks a simple question. No. It is not acceptable. (“Westminster and Holyrood have set a political agenda which essentially would turn our islands into an industrialised landscape of renewable electricity for export to mainland Scotland. Is that acceptable?”)

    Reply

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