More people living in Shetland now support Viking Energy’s controversial windfarm than oppose it, according to the results of the latest Shetland Times poll.
Thirty-six per cent of those asked are in favour of the 127-turbine project while 33 per cent are against and the remaining 31 per cent are undecided. That represents an increase of five per cent in support since the original poll carried out last summer, a 15 per cent fall in opposition and a 10 per cent rise in those who are not sure one way or the other.
Many more men support the project than are against it, but among women the position is reversed, with a greater number opposed than in favour.
Among the different age groups, young people, especially those between 25 and 34, are strongly in favour but in all four age groups between the ages of 45 and 74 more people are opposed than are in support. Among those over the age of 75 questioned, more are in support than against. Geographically, support is strongest in Whalsay and Skerries and the North Isles and weakest in those areas where turbines are to be located.
Our findings come as councillors prepare to meet to consider the development on Tuesday. In a report published yesterday afternoon (see separate story), the SIC’s planning department recommends that councillors should object to it.
While planners believe the development of a windfarm of “significant scale” could comply with its development plan, Viking “has not demonstrated that this development could be undertaken without unacceptable environmental impact”.
The Scottish government’s energy consents unit will have the final say on whether to grant planning permission. It may also choose to stage a public inquiry.
In a statement, SIC convener Sandy Cluness urged councillors to carefully consider the report and its implications. “I would urge all councillors to read the report carefully and weigh up the fundamental issue in its conclusion: do the economic benefits of the windfarm outweigh the environmental impact?
“The report stresses that the prospective economic and social benefits of the windfarm are not part of this planning report, but must be weighed up politically. That is what the council must now do.”
Our telephone poll of 1,050 people was carried out by staff member Michelle Robertson. Last year’s poll asked four supplementary questions, but this time we decided to concentrate on opinion on the principle of the windfarm.
The question – “Are you in favour of or against the proposed Viking Energy windfarm?” – was exactly the same as that asked last year. The question and methodology were designed in accordance with techniques used by professional pollsters and approved by BBC opinion polling expert and Strathclyde University professor John Curtice.
The random sample was weighted for age, sex and population distribution to give as accurate as possible an indication of the balance of opinion. There is a standard margin of error of plus or minus three per cent.
The headline figure masks marked variations in the balance of opinion between the sexes, among the different age groups and among people living in different parts of Shetland.
While overall 36 per cent of those questioned are in favour, 33 per cent against and 31 per cent undecided, among men 43 per cent are in favour (up 10 per cent from last year), 30 per cent against (down 16 per cent) and 27 per cent undecided (up 7 per cent). Among women just 29 per cent are in favour (no change), 37 per cent against (down 12 per cent) and 34 per cent undecided (up 12 per cent).
In the 16-24 age group 34 per cent are in favour (down 18 per cent), 30 per cent against (up 2 per cent) and 36 per cent undecided (up 16 per cent). Among 25-34 year olds 43 per cent are in favour (up 10 per cent), 21 per cent against (down 25 per cent) and 36 per cent undecided (up 15 per cent). In the 35-44 age group 35 per cent are in favour (up 7 per cent), 31 per cent against (down 14 per cent) and 34 per cent undecided (up 8 per cent).
Thirty-three per cent of those aged between 45 and 54 are in favour of the windfarm (up 1 per cent), 42 per cent against (down 3 per cent) and 25 per cent undecided (up 2 per cent). Among 55-64 year olds 38 per cent are in favour (up 7 per cent), 39 per cent against (down 15 per cent) and 23 per cent undecided (up 8 per cent). In the 65-74 age group, 27 per cent are in favour (up 7 per cent), 38 per cent against (down 23 per cent) and 35 per cent undecided (up 16 per cent). Finally, among those over 75, 39 per cent are in favour (up 18 per cent), 31 per cent against (down 26 per cent) and 30 per cent undecided (up 8 per cent).
Geographically, the strongest support for the windfarm is to be found in Whalsay, Skerries and the North Isles. Forty-seven per cent of those questioned in these areas (Area 1) are in favour of the windfarm, 17 per cent against and 36 per cent undecided.
In Area 2 – Voe, Mossbank, Terminal, Brae, Sullom, Muckle Roe, Burraland and North Northmaven – 35 per cent are in favour, 39 per cent against and 26 per cent undecided. In Area 3, which includes Whiteness and Weisdale and Nesting and Lunnasting and would be at the heart of the windfarm, 31 per cent are in favour, 44 per cent against and 25 per cent undecided.
In Area 4 – which includes Skeld, Aith, Bixter and Tresta – just 29 per cent are in favour, 45 per cent against and 26 per cent undecided. One half of Lerwick – Sound, Outskirts, Twageos and Sletts – and Bressay (Area 5) is in favour by a margin of 41 per cent to 28 per cent with 31 per cent undecided, while the other (Area 6 – Breiwick, Clickimin, Harbour, South Central, North Central and North) is against: 30 per cent for, 32 per cent against and 38 per cent undecided.
Among people living in Burra, Trondra, Foula, Quarff, Gulberwick and Scalloway (Area 7) 34 per cent are in favour, 36 per cent against and 30 per cent undecided. Finally, those in Dunrossness, Fair Isle, Levenwick, Bigton, Hoswick, Sandwick, Cunningsburgh and Wester Quarff are evenly split, with 35 per cent in favour, 35 per cent against and 30 per cent undecided.