The vote in favour of Viking Energy’s current windfarm proposal is hardly a ringing endorsement. As you have reported, only nine of the 21 councillors eligible to vote actually supported it. That’s democracy and those of us who failed to persuade them otherwise must accept the decision. However, your readers may find it useful to see the full text of the amendment that I proposed at the meeting on 14th December, seconded by Gary Robinson. It read as follows:
“This council resolves as follows:
1. To reaffirm its support for a large windfarm development in the islands.
2. To acknowledge the efforts made by the Viking Energy project to meet the concerns of objectors.
3. To recognise that the Shetland community, and the council, remain divided over this application, with many unresolved conflicts of fact and opinion.
4. To accept that there is now a public perception, in some quarters, that councillors have conflicted interests in this case, due to their multiple and overlapping roles as representatives of the community.
5. Therefore to recommend to the Energy Consents Unit that the best way to resolve the questions arising from the Viking Energy application is to hold an independent public inquiry, prior to the ECU making a recommendation to the Scottish ministers.”
This wording would have allowed many more councillors to vote without risking the wrath of the SS and the Standards Commission but, unfortunately, those who felt unable in all conscience to take part in the debate had left the council chamber before I was called by the chair, despite my having notified him in writing of my proposed resolution well before the meeting began.
If the Holyrood civil servants who are now handling this application do their job properly they will take into account the size and volume of objections and hold a public inquiry. I have little doubt that this would find in favour of a windfarm, albeit a smaller one. That in turn would spur the Westminster government to change the slightly dotty rules on how to pay for the essential cable to the mainland. It’s these artificial rules on cable charges, rather than any planning considerations (or wicked plots by demonised Viking Energy directors), that dictate the size of the windfarm. If not altered, they will either stifle the growth of green energy (because smaller windfarms can’t afford the cable), or lead to over-development in Shetland and other windy archipelagos (because only massive projects can pay the artificially high charges).
Cllr Jonathan Wills