The “unrepresentative meetings” Laughton Johnston mentions in his letter were four consultation meetings hosted by Shetland Islands Council in 2009 to gauge public opinion on the proposed Viking Energy windfarm. All showed a clear majority against. This was also reflected in a Shetland Times poll, 2,026 objections to the VE planning application and a Sustainable Shetland petition signed by 3,474 individuals.
I wonder if he would refer to the consultation meetings as “unrepresentative” had the outcome been more favourable to his own views? Full transcripts of all four meetings can be found here: www.sustainableshetland.org/planning/index.htm
He refers to “a handful of passionate opponents”. Sustainable Shetland has a membership of 678 (and rising) – rather a large handful I should say.
I did not attend the Aith meeting, but see from the transcript, that despite the “intimidatory atmosphere” Laughton refers to, a great many voiced their opinion, as did he himself.
He is wrong in stating that a vote at the Aith meeting was proposed by Sustainable Shetland. It was proposed by the chairperson.
He is also wrong in saying that those attending were presented with only two choices. The chairperson gave three options: for (15), against (110), undecided (3).
If he feels this was “unrepresentative of the West Side”, then what better way than repeating the exercise?
While I fully endorse his advice of folk writing to their councillors, I can’t possibly agree with his suggestion that opinions should only be expressed in private. After all, public meetings and open public debate are the hallmarks of a fully-functioning democracy.
As far as I remember, the invitations were extended to all, not just individuals from a given area, which gave folk who don’t work nine to five, or couldn’t attend a meeting in their own area, an opportunity to make their voices heard. Nor can I recall that folk were prohibited from attending more than one meeting.
As to Laughton’s concern regarding people from outside Shetland attending the Aith meeting; it will be a sad day for democracy when individuals have to produce birth certificates or household bills in order to attend a public meeting in Shetland.