Councillor Allan Wishart is to stand down as a director of Viking Energy and from Shetland Charitable Trust to take on the role of co-ordinating the controversial windfarm project.
Mr Wishart, who has extensive business experience and was chief executive of Lerwick Port Authority before becoming a councillor, will be employed on a one-year contract. Precise details of his salary are being withheld.
He will not, however, be stepping down as a councillor although he will relinquish the chairmanships of the infrastructure committee and transport forum ZetTrans.
The appointment follows the closing last Tuesday of submissions from objectors and those in favour of the project to build a 550MW windfarm in central Shetland with 150 turbines.
Three of the four statutory consultees, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the RSPB, raised serious objections to the proposal and all sought significant amendments in site design and placing.
Viking Energy is to work through the detail in the months ahead before coming forward with a revised plan which will then go back to those organisations for further comment.
The other statuory consultee, Shetland Islands Council, has received an extension until 13th November for it to make a recommendation to Scottish ministers on the project.
That followed councillors’ rejection of advice from head of legal services Jan Riise that they faced an “irreconcilable conflict of interest” in making a planning recommendation while holding the dual role as councillors and trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust.
Viking Energy chairman Bill Manson said that the windfarm was now at a stage where its various development activities needed integrating and co-ordinating to move ahead efficiently.
“The next 12 months or so will be a very busy time for everyone involved in the project. Closer liaison between Viking Energy and the community and an oversight of tasks such as financial planning and procurement needs to be in place as the project moves through the consents process.
“We feel that Allan Wishart has the necessary skills and experience to handle these demands and ensure that there is a continuing close dialogue with all the relevant agencies.”
Mr Wishart said: “I find the project extremely interesting as I believe that the windfarm development will be pivotal in determining Shetland’s future.
“Shetland has a long history in facing up to challenges and finding opportunities in them. The quest for renewable energy is no different and gives us an opportunity to do our bit to mitigate climate change and continue to benefit from the financial security that gives us the good standard of living we presently enjoy.
“Of course there are concerns about this project and there have been some startling and quite frightening claims made by those who oppose the scheme so there is a lot more work to do in letting people know the facts of the windfarm project to enable them take an informed and balanced view of it.”