It was interesting to witness the preponderance of, should I say it, “older” Shetland men who appeared to be in the ranks of the Windfarm Supporters Group at the recent Radio Shetland windfarm debate, none of whom looked to be total strangers to blue boiler suits, yellow rubber boots and Grey Fergies. The average local crofter is not known for being overly active in terms of public debate or local politics, leading me to ruminate on the possible reasons for such a group of people attending this event (and clearly throwing their peaked caps and toories into the “pro-windfarm” camp).
As a youngster in my mid-40s, I’ve grown up with all the benefits a comparatively wealthy council area has had to offer, and which I and everyone else in Shetland continue to enjoy. Our lifestyles are extremely comfortable both on a world scale, and compared to immediately preceding generations of Shetlanders.
I often go to the ruins of the old two-roomed crofthouse my father and his 10 siblings grew up in (well water, no electricity and an existence characterised by grinding toil) and wonder at the changes that have transformed life on our rock in a mere generation.
I remember my father and his family as being individuals who were acutely in tune with the land they were part of, but who retained the pragmatism necessary to maintain their way of life in our (very marginal) environment to the end of their days – they truly knew what living in a resource-poor Shetland could represent.
I wonder if we “younger” Shetlanders, and most incomers to the isles, really have any conception of what this was like? I wonder if the “older” Shetlanders attending the windfarm debate as supporters of the project could tell the rest of us just how hard living in a cash-strapped Shetland can be? I reckon many of us, sitting pretty in our council/NHS/related public agency jobs, have little conception of this.
Let’s get real. We need a local means of maintaining community and lifestyles, for ourselves and for succeeding generations and we need it now. Who really believes that any national political administration has an interest in supporting distant crag-dwellers such as ourselves in the lifestyles “to which we have become accustomed”.
With the lingering demise of Sullom Voe, and the lack of affirmative action to provide comparable community income, Shetland will wither. The windfarm represents a positive alternative which we, as Shetlanders, can put in place now.
It’s great to talk about the “good” old days. Were they really that good that we’d want to return to them? Not me. I remember what my parents told me …