Minds were made up

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.

Martin Heubeck


Add Your Comment
  • Barbara Gray

    • December 16th, 2010 10:22

    The Energy Consents Unit received 2,300 objections to the windfarm and 900 in favour. Given these figures how can the SIC justify voting through the windfarm developement when it is clearly not the will of the people [I thought in a democracy thats what councillors were supposed to take into account].
    If they are so convinced they are right, why are they frightened of holding a public inquiry, possibly because it won’t give them the answer they want.

  • Frank Hay

    • December 16th, 2010 16:04

    As trustees of the Charitable Trust councillors must feel obliged to ensure that any investments are successful. It is perhaps not surprising that they chose to support the VE proposal because if they didn’t then the two and a quarter million pound (so far) investment by the Charitable Trust would be put at risk. In my view a definite conflict of interest.
    I have to agree with Mr Heubeck that councillors who chose to take part in the “debate” had decided beforehand how they were going to vote.
    A public enquiry is essential to ensure fair consideration of all the issues involved in this troubled proposal. This might go some way to reduce the increasing acrimony which has arisen over the Viking Energy plans.


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