The Viking Energy proposal has split this community more deeply than any other environmental issue than in my 33 years of living here.
On Tuesday SIC councillors had the chance to lance this boil by backing their own planning department and refusing to support Viking Energy’s plans, which would have automatically triggered a public inquiry and exposed the various claims and counter-claims on environmental benefits and losses to independent scientific scrutiny, especially those highly disputed claims of carbon payback, or carbon audit.
What struck me, sitting in the Town Hall, was the complete lack of debate on an issue that could change the face of Shetland for our lifetimes. Councillors who remained to hear submissions clearly had made their minds up beforehand how they would vote or proceed, and one wonders why they invited objectors and supporters to speak at all, apart from appearing to recognise (for the first time?) issues of public health and proximity of dwellings to turbines.
It didn’t seem to matter how many hundreds of hours officials in the SIC, SNH, RSPB and Shetland Amenity Trust had spent picking apart the addendum; if there was money and some jobs to be gained, that was fine. They then seemed content to dismiss councillor Jonathan Wills’ proposal of recommending a public inquiry to the energy consents unit, by saying the Scottish government could hold one anyway if it was so minded. Cop out, or what?
Thankfully the John Muir Trust has now called for a public inquiry, and if other prominent organisations follow, and some MSPs who are not blinded by a rush to “renewables” whatever the environmental cost, get interested, the Viking Energy plans may yet see independent scrutiny and adjudication.