A group of windfarm supporters is calling for Shetland Islands Council to eschew another round of public meetings on the Viking Energy project and instead organise a “major initiative” to encourage those who support or oppose the project to make their views known.
The Windfarm Supporters Group (WSG) has written to the council calling on it “encourage and assist thousands of people” to submit their opinions on the contentious £685 million development to the Scottish government’s energy consents unit and local councillors.
Viking Energy last month released a sizeable addendum to its original proposal, cutting the number of turbines from 150 to 127. The formal consultation period runs until 19th November, with the council having a further four weeks to deliver its response.
Protest group Sustainable Shetland is calling for another round of meetings akin to those 12 months ago, at which on average three quarters of attendees expressed their opposition to the huge windfarm. The council has yet to say whether it intends to stage more meetings.
But the WSG disputes Sustainable Shetland’s assertion that the meetings were representative of the scale of opposition to the project. In its letter, the group states: “We oppose any idea of repeating the exercise. We disagree with the argument that the meetings last year were some democratic process that reflected local opinions.”
The group claims there are “persistent suggestions” of people having voted at more than one meeting and suggests that some who attended found them “quite intimidating”.
Its letter continues: “The council allowed its meetings to be turned into a publicity stunt for opponents of the windfarm by agreeing to a vote. A tactic by opponents that we might admire from a campaigning point of view, but it had little to do with truly reflecting local opinion.”
A poll specially commissioned by The Shetland Times last summer indicated that 48 per cent of the adult population were opposed to the project, 31 per cent were in favour and 21 per cent undecided.
The WSG is proposing that posters, leaflets and advertisements in the media should be used to encourage and assist people to make their views known.
“Now is the time to encourage thousands of islanders to express their views – not just a few hundred who might attend public meetings,” they suggest. “It is vital both councillors and the Scottish government get as wide and as big a range of opinions as possible.
“The democratic process for this already exists in the planning system – through individuals and organisations making representations and the council can pay a crucial role in trying to ensure this opportunity is grasped by as many people as possible.”
* Anyone who wants to support or object to the proposal should contact the energy consents unit before Friday 19th November by email to EnergyConsents@scotland.gsi.gov.uk or by writing to: Energy Consents and Deployment Unit, Scottish Government, 4th Floor, 5 Atlantic Quay, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow, G2 8LU.