A foot on the throttle

Twelve centuries after they first came, they’re coming back. Those Vikings were associated with war, pillage and rape. Recently these earlier invaders have been “reinvented” by historians as more rather peaceful colonists and farmers.

Make no mistake however, this does not apply to Viking Energy. This is the good old-fashioned full-blooded unreconstructed type of Viking with that obsessive and occasionally berserk drive for wealth, unfettered by any regard for other people, culture, wildlife or landscape.

When they invade again Shetland is going to change, big time. For most of us these monsters of turbines, with their noise and stark dominance of the landscape will be there for the rest of our lives. Viking is not for Christmas, or even Up-Helly-A’, it is for life. Viking is a vastly more intrusive industrialisation of Shetland than Sullom Voe ever was, yet the apparent lack of concern, or even interest, shown by our so-called representatives, whether council, MSP, MP or MEP is a indictment of their lack of real interest in these islands. It is in striking contrast to a previous generation.

We can learn much from how Shetland dealt with the oil industry. The then SIC took extraordinary effort to minimise damage to Shetland’s landscape and environment. There were hard compromises and oil did not get to run roughshod over the people and landscape. It is testament to the good governance and concern for Shetland shown by that previous generation that oil has brought such reward at surprisingly little cost.

Can we imagine if BP had added “… by the way we’re also going to stick 130 huge white towers 500 feet high (much bigger than Sumburgh Head) and over another 100km of new roads (nearly the entire length of Shetland) … now we know these look awful … and will be an eyesore for the next 30 odd years … and they make quite a lot of noise, and … er … well they will quite often chop up those rare birds that make Shetland such a precious place … but we know you don’t mind because you’re going to get lots and lots of money”?

Would you have accepted the oil industry under those terms? I somehow doubt it. We can look back now and see how well Shetland was cared for by this earlier generation of councillors.

What a contrast to today. This current batch appear to lack any concern for the heritage and future of Shetland; they just want the money.

Of course they don’t want to say this because most of Shetland doesn’t want Viking. And the one thing councillors are really interested in is staying councillors. So they sit on their hands, waiting for it to happen without doing or saying anything about it.

This is the biggest thing since Sullom Voe, yet they simply don’t say a word. Forget the fact they are elected to represent the views of the electorate of Shetland, forget that courage and care shown by their forebears, forget everything except the money.

But to me the saddest thing about this whole Viking debacle has been the lack of any continuing campaign against it. When I moved here two years ago (yes I am an invader too) there was a “buzz” against Viking. One of the first things that happened when I got off the boat was to be asked to sign a petition. Like thousands of others I signed, pleased to be a small part of this opposition.

Ultimately some 15 per cent of the population did this, much larger than any other similar campaign in history. Later meetings showed that perhaps 75 per cent of the population were against Viking. With that sort of majority they didn’t have a chance, even those hard-of-hearing councillors would have to take notice if they wanted to stay councillors.

But what has happened since? While Viking has continued to dribble a sickly mix of dubious information and general promises of “good for all” (have we had the “Viking will cure cancer” story yet?) it has been essentially unopposed. It has been allowed to come back with a revised plan when it should have been sent packing the first time, after paying back the money of yours they’d spent without asking you that is.

I have not seen Sustainable Shetland since a nice lady took my signature two years ago. There is apparently a “steering group”, but trust me guys, a stationary object doesn’t need steering, it needs a foot on the throttle.

Where are those events to remind Viking what Shetland thinks, and especially to remind the council why it is there? I am sure something must be happening behind the scenes but maybe, just maybe, it is time for opening night.

To all intents and purposes the campaign has failed. It seems a great pity those 3,474 people have been let down. That number could probably have been doubled, easily. Instead it looks to all the world as though we are going to get Viking, despite your views.

We can expect councillors to do what is good for themselves, they always do. But they have simply not been challenged. They need to be forced to do what you want, they need above all to be reminded that they cannot just expect your votes, they have to deserve them.

Take your opinion and use it. Kick out any so-called representatives at the next election unless they actually do what they are supposed to do, ie represent “your” opinion. Try voting instead for people that care about you, Shetland’s future and Shetland’s heritage. It’s very nearly too late.

Adrian R Yallop


Add Your Comment
  • Sam Hill Stringbean

    • October 21st, 2010 12:55

    Do you object to wind farms per se, or simply this one, in this place? Is it the scale of the effect on the landscape or the potential collateral damage, or what?

  • Adrian Yallop

    • November 3rd, 2010 15:58

    Hi Sam

    In this case my main concern is the location and the scale of the site compared to the size of the island, together with the impact on landscape, peat and flying wildlife. I also have a slight niggle about who might pay to dismantle this lot if Viking goes bust. Which is lets face it is possible.

    Yes we have wind here, quite a bit in fact ! But that does not mean you have to use it. We also have a landscape that is essentially unique in the UK. As for the logic of generating electricity so far from it’s possible use, well this escapes me too. The rationale for wind energy only makes economic sense under the current legislative framework which obliges suppliers to buy the very expensive electricity wind produces compared to any other generation method. This might easily change.

    So I am not a ‘fan’ of any extensive wind farms developments really. Despite what the supporters tell us wind generation can replace very little fossil fuel generation as the current grid is composed. Simply because of the need to maintain ‘spinning reserve’. Yes maybe with colossal investment we could build a lot lot more pumped storage like Dinorwic which might give time for fossil-fire stations to ‘run up’. But currently there has to be virtually identical capacity running uselessly for when wind drops, however sporadically. And all the studies shows that generally if there is little wind in Wales there is little in Scotland. So we have huge gaps that need reliably ‘filling’. Again most studies show that wind is a ‘spiky’ energy source that needs a lot of tempering with other sources.

    If we want to displace fossil-fuel from our energy mix there is really only one large-scale way to go. And as a former member of the anti-nuclear campaign it hurts me to say it but it is going to have to be nuclear. One station would replace near enough all our current and planned wind capacity.

    But back to your question ! If we have to have wind farms I can think of few more visually destructive places than Shetland to place one.

    And all this leave out the mysterious ‘murk’ about how charitable trust money got tied up in this without the population being clearly asked. That is not for me to comment. I am an incomer.

    Cheers Adrian


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