Letter from Edinburgh 19.06.09
On Monday night I caught a little of Radio Shetland’s Speakeasy on the windfarm.
This follows the lively debate about The Shetland Times poll on the issue. So I was thinking this enormous debate through on Tuesday morning as I drove to Gleneagles. Unhappily I wasn’t there to play golf! It was work. Steve Forbes sought the Republican nomination for President of the USA back in 1996 and 2000. He lost both times, but has amassed a fortune in business and publishes the Forbes business magazine. The Forbes annual conference for big business bosses tours the world. This week it came to Scotland and to Gleneagles.
I caught the sessions on Tuesday morning with people like the Lloyds TSB boss Susan Rice. The best discussion was, yes, on climate change. It featured Bob Carr, an Aussie who was a highly successful premier of New South Wales. He achieved a rarity in politics. He brought builders and environmentalists together to construct new, green houses. The building industry, architects and surveyors were given a menu of options on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They could design in measures that reduced greenhouse gases overall, rather than the standards being just about how much electricity the home used. The environmentalists supported the programme and New South Wales made sufficient gains in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
What, I sense you saying, has an Australian politician got to do with Viking? I’ve thought, for some time, that the financial argument over the windfarm was potentially the biggest. I take the Charitable Trust point – that income from the farm can replace the declining resources from Sullom Voe. But Shetlanders don’t necessarily see any upside for that. By Shetlanders I mean everyone who owns or rents a house or flat and pays the highest energy costs anywhere in the UK.
I know the weather has been fine of late. But Shetland’s climate means we spend more to heat our homes. So why couldn’t a mechanism be found that helped both businesses in Shetland and every home with their bills? Oil prices dipped to $40. Now they have moved up to $70. If and when, and it will be when, the world economy starts moving again, oil prices and therefore our electricity and heating costs will rise even more. Is it not at least worth having a debate about this aspect of the Viking proposal? I have been told this can’t be done. I’m not sure I buy that. At least if every household saw a reduction in their heating bills, then everyone would have an interest. I asked the First Minister a football question last week. It’s the first time in a while we have agreed on something. Setanta televise the Scottish Premier League. It owes the SPL £3million. If it goes bust the TV rights money will be lost to the clubs who need it badly. Did Alex Salmond agree? Yes. Has the problem been fixed? Still waiting.
Tavish Scott MSP