Anti-Viking Energy protest group Sustainable Shetland says figures it has obtained from the Scottish government’s energy consents unit reinforce its belief that a large majority of people in Shetland are opposed to the 127-turbine windfarm.
Out of 3,850 responses logged by the consents unit, 2,736 people objected to the scheme and 1,114 supported it.
More than 85 per cent of the responses gave a Shetland address, and Sustainable Shetland vice-chairman Kevin Learmonth said that fact “makes the result the only true and accurate reflection of what people in Shetland actually think”.
The organisation, which stresses it is “not anti-windfarm”, is planning a protest march starting at the Market Cross in Lerwick at 11.30am on Saturday.
Mr Learmonth said: “These official figures show a majority of people are prepared to take the time and effort to formally oppose a scheme they believe is bad for Shetland and bad for the environment.
“Everyone had a chance to respond, everyone was encouraged to respond, but just 29 per cent of people offered their support to Viking Energy. We saw Viking Energy run a vigorous and well-funded campaign using our own charitable trust money, even to the extent of using automatic letter writing software. They still failed to generate much support.”
Mr Learmonth added that the Windfarm Supporters’ Group had run a similar campaign, “albeit on a more above-board basis” than the company itself.
“How can you claim community backing for a scheme when the community overwhelmingly rejects it through the planning process?” he continued. “How can the councillors continue to run Viking Energy from the charitable trust when the community has told them they do not want the Viking windfarm?
“Councillors could stop this project tomorrow if they chose to. They might be the developer, but they should still be answerable to the people of Shetland.”
The group is calling on local MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott to “properly represent the majority wishes of Shetland and stop sitting on the fence with his ‘community evenly split’ cop out”.
Mr Learmonth said the group would like to see Scottish energy minister Jim Mather refuse planning consent outrightly, but “at the very least” wants him to order a local public inquiry. “We hope he and the SNP government are listening to what the community of Shetland is saying.”
A 1,000-person sample poll commissioned by The Shetland Times late last year showed that, within the statistical margin for error, there appeared to be effectively a three-way split in the community between those for, against and undecided on the contentious project: 36 per cent were in favour, 33 per cent against and 31 per cent had not made up their mind either way.