No-alternatives energy

The Shetland Visitor Survey 2006 stated that for tourists “overall their main inspiration were birds, wildlife, nature and flora, followed by peace and quiet, remoteness and the scenery”. In modern jargon we have a “unique selling point”, as Robert Wishart’s letter in last week’s Shetland Times highlights. What is it about moorlands that repels Viking Energy? I’m not goggle-eyed at the thought of riches beyond imagination, saving Shetland from impending meltdown, but to Viking Energy shareholders and their apologists the hills are “boring”. Well, although stock exchanges spewing forth money don’t attract me, I guess can’t appreciate the exhilaration of driving a Cadillac.

Economic wizard Allan Wishart is dazzled by the “substantial income” (Shetland Times, 1st October). Viking’s non-technical summary (p.19) says: “It is acknowledged that the proposed wind farm … would alter the context in which the heritage of the central mainland is viewed.” But all that’s on offer in recompense for Shetland’s biggest ever industrial project is a “major heritage project that would allow people to experience, enjoy and connect with their heritage”! Bill Manson has “listened” and reduced the windfarm’s size, but it is still gargantuan – 13 quarries, 570 acres of land to be stripped, 127 turbines at 140 metres high; the colossal statistics go on. Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of moor and rock shifted, and concrete laid on the hills for eternity. Viking’s updated planning statement (p.17) reveals the council has decreed “Shetland’s electricity needs to be fully provided for by the Viking Energy Project by 2016”. Policy documents are seldom read, but justify in advance any impact of later decisions, which makes the sham “consultation” sickening.

A13.6 (p.2) states councillors were consulted, ensuring everyone was onboard. Oh yes? In Delting, the community council convened a public meeting, at which several spoke out (I recall 20 against, five for), so our esteemed leaders’ views are at variance with the parish. This ratio is replicated in the results of the SIC’s four public meetings, and the Shetland Times poll. But clairvoyants Allan Wishart and Laughton Johnston know such results are “unrepresentative”. My three councillors promised reply letters to my points: I’m still waiting for them, a year later. “The intention … was to get an indication of whether major stakeholders would be supportive,” as A13.6 says, and if you ask the right people Viking will get the answer it wants. Unsurprisingly, community and islands councils’ audience plus the Shetland Times poll views were all binned. Wishart is “confident we won’t have another avalanche of objections” (Shetland Times, 1st October). Think again.

Wishart now is blackmailing us to accept his windfarm because if we don’t, outside predators will come. Meanwhile, 2010’s national news is full of developments in offshore windpower, plus wave and tidal. No alternatives are allowed in this monster capitalist version of alternative energy, for it is the Viking way, or no way. To convert us, Viking reveal evidence claiming 68 per cent of peat land is in bad condition, so we need their project to reinstate the hills. But it turns out the study only concerned eroding hilltops, and Viking applied this data to all the peat land! Central Mainland’s hills are in lovely order, as walkers know, but Viking’s money men aren’t fussed about that. It’ll cost £685,000,000, but not to worry, we only have a half share! The council’s track record slushing away our money to the Smyril Line to no long-term benefit comes to mind. And after 21st-century financial concerns pass VE’s shareholders will have permanent concrete monuments for millennia to come.

VE’s cultural heritage report is based on turbine siting, downplaying the gigantic effect of roads, quarries and substations. People’s experience of an industrialised landscape is sidestepped. Research methodology is inadequate beyond examining building remains. Shetland Amenity Trust submitted its representations on the Section 36 application, stating concerns, but Viking’s addendum still evades the issues with arrogant disregard for our heritage. New evidence gleaned is used to reaffirm Viking’s adopted standpoint. It avoids the seriousness of destroying the historic landscape, consistently trivialising it, stating individual impacts are “of less importance”, or “unlikely to be of great significance”. The whole landscape will be dominated by the turbines, and Viking Energy’s imperious pronouncement (updated planning statement, p.16) that “there would be no significant, irreversible impacts on cultural heritage caused by the Viking Wind Farm” is ridiculous. Do the hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete not count, then?

Despite the assertion (A13.6, p.2) that key agencies were consulted, logging of archaeological artefacts wasn’t done, historic photographs weren’t utilised, no exploration of further sources undertaken. VE attempts assuagement by proposing a project to encourage us to explore our moorlands (p.2), which is ironic considering the overwhelming opposition and paradoxical seeing the windfarm would drastically impair the landscape permanently. While it is “acknowledged that the proposed wind farm … would alter the context in which the heritage of the central mainland is viewed”, all Viking Energy can suggest (non-technical summary, p.19) is a “major heritage project that would allow people to experience, enjoy and connect with their heritage”!

“Our environment is about to be destroyed by the ‘renewables’ industry subsidy junkies and their local and central government acolytes, and, apart from lodging our objections, there seems little we can do about it” (Robert Wishart, Shetland Times, 5th November). So, dear readers, don’t hold your wheesht, object! Write this week because it is the last chance to state your case, to the Energy Consents Unit, 150 Broomielaw, Glasgow; its all at

Dr Ian Tait
Brae House,


Add Your Comment
  • Brian Smith

    • November 9th, 2010 13:13

    One of the most hilarious interventions in this debate I have heard so far was the statement by Alan Wishart last night that he went out with binoculars two weekends running, to find out if anyone was hill-walking. (Even Chris Bunyan looked a bit disconcerted at that point.) Having failed to spy anybody, Wishart seems to conclude that the hills can be torn to pieces.

  • Matthew Laurenson

    • November 9th, 2010 14:00

    This is yet another example of an objection to the wind farm which presents no alternative for the future of Shetland other than to “preserve heritage”. Implementing the large VE renewable energy scheme would destroy the heritage of Shetland?

    What part of the heritage exactly would it destroy? The musical heritage? The dialect? The history? Or would it not just alter the views along the central belt of Shetland, with instead of desolate brown peat hills, we would have attractive looking wind turbines every so often.

    This viewpoint fails to take account of the economic, social and industrial benefits which could follow on from the VE project. It’s one thing to protect heritage, but quite another to emasculate the entrepreneurial spirit of an island group which for the past few generations has not only looked to preserve a strong identity, but establish a strong economy and way of life.

    Tourism is NOT the major contributor to the Shetland economy, industry is. Oil and Gas Services, Aquaculture, Local Produce, Technology, Renewables, Fishing.

    This is not to say that tourism is not important, but it is a long way from the major contributor to the Shetland economy. At the last census in 2001, approximately 5% of people working were employed in restaurants, pubs and hotels etc. I would estimate at least two thirds of that number will not be related to seasonal tourism, but industrial visits and local business.

    It’s not about who shouts loudest wins, but about what is right for Shetland as a whole. Simply putting up a negative argument to every change that is suggested will not progress the economy. We can preserve our heritage, nurture a growing tourism sector and embrace the VE scheme all at the same time. The VE project will have a visual impact, but taking into account the future economic and social benefits it’s a proposal which should and hopefuly will be given serious consideration by the planning officials and scottish government.

    Kind Regards,
    Matthew Laurenson


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