No matter how many times Sustainable Shetland repeats it, it is not true! There is absolutely no evidence that the “vast majority in Shetland” are against the windfarm. Initially, when emotions were high and there was no Windfarm Supporters Group to challenge Sustainable Shetland, there was an upsurge in opposition.
However, the Shetland Times poll (10th December 2010) clearly indicates that over the last year opposition has fallen dramatically (-15 per cent) while support has risen (+5 per cent) and that now 36 per cent support the windfarm, 33 per cent oppose and 31 per cent undecided. Similarly, an analysis of the comments to the energy consents unit shows that while on the initial planning application from Viking Energy there were about 2,000 comments against and 500 in support, following the publication of Viking Energy’s addendum to the planning application in October there have been 300 against and 400 in support. In other words public opinion in Shetland is swinging from opposition to support.
Much has been made of the dismissal of the recommendations of the Shetland planning department report by the nine councillors who supported Viking Energy at the meeting on 14th December. Anyone who has read this document will have some doubt about its objectivity. The planning department itself admitted that it had made “no attempt” to assess the potential benefits of the Viking Energy habitat management plan’s huge investment in Central Mainland or the social and economic factors regarding the development before arriving at its recommendation to object. Perhaps, if it had, it might have arrived at a different conclusion, just like the nine councillors.
Sustainable Shetland, representing a very vocal but minority opinion in Shetland, appears to have decided that the only way to get the result it wants is to question the conflict of interest of councillors, as members of the charitable trust and the council. At the council meeting each councillor who voted accepted that they were on the charitable trust but on this occasion were representing their electors. Not one of those councillors stands in any way to gain personal financial advantage from the windfarm or their position on the charitable trust. Calling into question the conflict of interest of those councillors is merely a tactic by Sustainable Shetland to delay and attempt to stop the windfarm.
Shetland Islands Council has taken a democratic decision to back the windfarm. Sustainable Shetland must stop its pretence of representing a majority of Shetland opinion when it manifestly does not.
J Laughton Johnston