It has become clear as glass during the debate over recent weeks that the proposed Viking windfarm is about one thing, and one thing only: money.
Projected windfarm income, we’re told, is going to preserve “the lifestyle we’ve all become accustomed to” (Shetland Life, November editorial). While the rest of the country faces job losses and drastic cuts in services and benefits, we’ll be alright up here, thanks to Viking Energy.
Who is “we” in this context? Who actually enjoys this enviable lifestyle? Having worked in the voluntary sector for many years (suicide prevention/drugs/alcohol/mental health) I have come across countless individuals who are on the bread-line in this oil-rich community, because benefits are the same across the country, while prices are not. Individuals on low incomes or benefits – and there are many of them in Shetland – have no share of this bonanza.
In oil-rich Shetland we still have many who struggle to make ends meet and rarely, if ever, can afford to access facilities and entertainments the rest of us take for granted, and all the cash flowing from Sullom Voe into the SIC coffers hasn’t made the slightest difference to them.
If anything, our oil wealth has dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor, and the promised new wealth will not make one iota of difference to their lives. They will be just as drastically affected by cuts in benefits as those in the rest of the country.
Shetland, despite all the roads, leisure centres and care homes, is a deeply unfair and unjust society, and the VE windfarm, if built, will only serve to compound this at best.
At worst those living within or near the windfarm will see their quality of life as well as the values of their properties plummet.
VE insists that nobody will be affected by noise or shadow flicker from its turbines, which I believe to be misguided.
In 1999 a German court ruled that a wind turbine with an overall height of 100 metres caused shadow flicker up to a distance of 1,625 metres. Applied to the height of VE’s 3.6MW turbines, this figure is 2,356 metres.
This will affect several households within or near the windfarm sites; I feel especially for the lady who lives at “Halfway House” with no less than three turbines within just over 1,000 metres from her doorstep.
Last year, on Radio Shetland, Bill Manson, chairman of Viking Energy, stated categorically that no compensation would be paid to individuals due to noise, shadow flicker and falling property values caused by the windfarm.
All these millions, and not a penny for those worst affected? If our society should ever be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, I’m afraid the verdict is bound to be a source of shame, regret and sadness.