Viking Energy has rightly been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for pushing too far its claims about the community benefits of its proposed windfarm. Among many controversial features of the project, the one most likely to evoke raw emotion among critics is the fact that the owners of the Burradale windfarm stand to profit personally from their five per cent share (albeit in return for risking their own capital). The advertising watchdog has also taken Viking to task for failing to make clear that the projections for the potential financial windfall made in the offending leaflet were purely and simply estimates.
Viking has held up its hands and said sorry. In future publications it will, it says, abide by the Committee of Advertising (CAP) code. Nonetheless, it will have to work very hard to restore the credibility it has lost as a result of such an embarrassing ruling.
The original complaints were made by Sustainable Shetland and as such the ASA ruling marks a significant propaganda victory for that organisation. But what if we turn the tables?
The standard of debate about the windfarm has been truly awful, and it is clear enough that Viking bears its share of responsibility for this. But can those who produced Sustainable Shetland’s own advertising look themselves in the eye and say it was all entirely accurate? Viking Energy does not think so. It has identified what it believes to be 11 potential breaches of the code. Sensibly, given work on a new environmental statement, Viking chose not to pursue this.