Anti-windfarm group Sustainable Shetland has presented a petition to the council with more than 3,600 signatures condemning the Viking Energy plan to build 150 turbines in the central Mainland, although close scrutiny of the document by The Shetland Times has forced a recount.
Rachel Smith, 13, from Hillswick, handed over the document to SIC convener Sandy Cluness before Wednesday’s Full Council meeting.
Rachel, a keen walker and naturalist, said she opposed the windfarm because it would “devastate the landscape, and ruin the areas where I love to go walking and bird watching”, adding that it was “wrong to build industrial windfarms on peat”.
When The Shetland Times examined the petition on Wednesday it was quickly obvious a number of people had signed it not just twice but in a few cases three, four or more times.
According to Sustainable Shetland about 150 of the 3,605 signatories are not resident in Shetland but on closer examination that figure obviously should have been higher.
Quizzed about the discrepancies, Sustainable Shetland investigated and announced on Thursday it was to re-examine the petition “from scratch” although it does not expect it will result in a big drop in the number of signatures.
Vice-chairman Kevin Learmonth admitted: “We made a mistake and missed some duplicate signatures and we have to put our hand up and say we are sorry.”
Despite the embarrassing flaws, the petition remains a weighty one and testament to the strength and breadth of opposition from all quarters in Shetland ranging from children to octogenarians. People even in communities far from the impact of proposed turbines, such as Unst, Scalloway, Dunrossness and Bressay, have signed in considerable numbers.
In areas facing onto the turbines, particularly Aith, it is hard to imagine many have not signed their names although across to the east side of the turbines, in Nesting, people appear far less hostile and have not signed in large numbers.
After accepting the petition outside the Town Hall, Mr Cluness said the document was “a huge representation of what Shetland people think” and from his own soundings it appeared most people were not against a windfarm, just one on the scale proposed. “The overall response I’ve had is that they feel it is too large for the islands.”
He repeated his view that “a rather smaller windfarm is a better bet” if the right financial circumstances prevail in the next year or two to allow the project to be viable with fewer turbines due to advances in cable technology and charges.
He also told Sustainable Shetland members: “My view is that if the majority of the Shetland public are against it then it shouldn’t go ahead.”
The deadline for formal objections to the project, which Viking Energy put to Scottish ministers for consent in May, is 28th July.
Story updated at 10.18 on 2nd July