Only Fox can be satisfied (Mike Bennett)

So we got our “independent” MSP after all! Shetland did what Shetland does and voted Liberal with barely a nod in recognition of the party’s morph into Lib/Dem and now Lib/Dem/Con, thus enabling Teflon Tavish to emerge smiling, despite the meltdown of the party he leads.

Under the circumstances, his achievement must be acknowledged. Well done Tavish. However, leading a party of two (at the time of writing) should not prove too demanding and with career prospects on hold, I have no doubt that, honourable man that he is, Tavish will throw himself wholeheartedly into looking after his constituency – although how much “influence” a Lib/Dem has now, is debateable.

In the cold light of the morning after, how the scoffing taunts of toothless “independents with no influence” will return to haunt main party candidates and our near “independent” Lib/Dem MSP in particular.

Respect for the SNP candidate grew throughout the campaign and her gracious manner in defeat will surely win her even more friends. It does not pass un-noticed how difficult it is to be magnanimous in victory.

The significance of the impressive Billy Fox vote seems to have caused some confusion among the other candidates as they variously claim that he was a one-issue windfarm candidate while at the same time claiming that his share of the vote does not indicate a loud anti-Viking Energy voice. Jamie Kerr managed both views in one interview.

For Billy, it is a win/win situation as the one candidate who can be really satisfied with his performance.

Mike Bennett


Add Your Comment
  • James Stewart

    • May 6th, 2011 12:51

    Actually with the SNP in charge with probably a majority now, Viking Energy will almost certainly go ahead.

  • Leslie Lowes

    • May 6th, 2011 16:01

    The election has managed to clarify one situation for the community and for the future government of Scotland. The anti-Viking windfarm brigade had ample opportunity to cast their ballots behind the one candidate who was definitely anti-Viking. So thank you Billy Fox for showing clearly that there is no absolute majority in Shetland against the Viking project.. Now the new Scottish Energy Minister can give Viking the go ahead to build it and the connector and this community and the rest of Scotland, can begin to benefit from Shetland’s abundant renewable energy sources, starting with the wind..

  • Gordon Harmer

    • May 6th, 2011 16:28

    On Thursday 28/04/11 Radio Scotland were interviewing Alex Salmond and he was asked about planning and renewable’s. His reply to one of the questions was all big projects will go through, so thank goodness for Viking and the SIC being there to keep some local governance over this project.

  • Bert Morrison

    • May 6th, 2011 23:48

    Can it be now assertained from the fact that 2845 people voted for Billy Fox and 2736 people submitted objections to the Energy Consents Unit that many of the voters fall into the two groups? Does this then draw a line under the number of Anti-Windfarm people in Shetland?. If this is the case then it clearly shows that while the windfarm is devisive, there is a clearly more people who are either supporters of the windfarm or couldn’t care less one way or the other.

    Let us not forget also that the Liberal Party support has suffered nationwide, not just in Shetland. Billy cannot take full credit for the reduction in the Liberal majority in Shetland. Hopefully this will be a wake up call to Nick Clegg and Co.

    It is now time for Viking to be approved and for Shetland to move on into a new future in wind, wave and tidal power.

  • ali inkster

    • May 7th, 2011 17:14

    “so thank goodness for Viking and the SIC being there to keep some local governance over this project.”


    At first you laugh then you scream, at the thought of the current crop of clowns having good governance over anything.

  • Angela Sinclair

    • May 8th, 2011 7:35


    Just over 50% of people that can vote, voted. You cannot say which way those 50% would fall on the windfarm issue.

    Not everyone can vote.

    Many of the people that voted for party politics may well have picked Billy Fox as a second choice. Or not. Who can really tell?

    Some people that voted for other candidates are against the wind farm, and chose to vote based on what they thought was best for Shetland in general, rather than on one main issue.

    Some people voted for Billy Fox that are pro the Viking Wind Farm.

    Your logic, while it looks reasonable at a cursory glance contains significant flaws and I don’t think you can ascertain anything regarding the windfarm from the results.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • May 8th, 2011 20:35

    Ian I heard a scream like that in “one flew over the cuckoo’s nest” was it you?
    If Alex Salmond is going to give the go ahead to all big renewable projects we have to have some local governance over it so locals benefit from it. Who else is in a position to influence that governance but the SIC and Viking. Certainly not a green eyed objector who stands to make a few thousand pounds in rent for windmills on his land.
    We have a Scottish government who are hell bent on Scotland being the first country to generate 100% of its power from renewable’s. They cant do it themselves so it is going to be down to large national and multi national companies to build the wind/wave/tide farms. If they are allowed to build in Shetland without some local governance you will see a wind farm like you never imagined. These companies make profits for their share holders not Shetlanders,
    for our benefit we need Viking and the SIC to be involved.
    If you are referring to the SIC as the current crop of clowns why don’t you stand for the council and if you are voted in you can go laughing and screaming through the council chambers. I am sure you will feel at home.

  • Bert Morrison

    • May 8th, 2011 23:44


    My previous response posed an open question. We cannot be certain as to the total number of windfarm objectors in Shetland; but here are some statistics which give a general indication of the strength of feeling:

    After 3 years Sustainable Shetland has around 750 members (3.4% of Shetlands population)

    In February the Anti Windfarm rally (The ‘last stand’) amassed a huge 300 or so marchers (1.4% of Shetlands population)

    In December 2010 the Shetland Times survey of 1000 people chosen at random produced the following results:
    36% in favour of the windfarm
    33% against
    31% undecided

    A Facebook poll which was commissioned last month has the following results at present:
    1552 votes
    For 764 (49%)
    Against 590 (38%)
    Undecided 156 (10%)
    Indifferent 25 (1.6%)

    Where among these statistics can a majority ‘against’ be found?

    Compare this to a 181 turbine wind farm which was proposed in Lewis which out of 11,022 representations, 10,924 were against the plan, with only 98 in favour.

    Shetland has become superlative at faffing around, wasting money and seeing nothing as an outcome (Bressay Bridge, Anderson High, Whalsay Tunnel, etc, etc). This has built in an intrinsic belief by many that anything the Council touches is doomed to failure. We must break away from this negativity and work towards building a future for our children. For the pier head skippers who bemoan the SIC – could they do any better? – if so – stand at the next election and lets see!

    Renewable energy is the future and Shetland is better placed than most to benefit from it. What else is on the horizon after the oil and gas industry leaves our islands? Maybe back to the Whaling?

  • Kevin Learmonth

    • May 9th, 2011 10:48

    Bert, let me throw this into the numbers mix.

    Number of Windfarm Supporters Group members. None. Much safer to stick to vague “supporters”, no constitution and no democratic decision making process.

    Number of people on Yes to Viking Energy support march. Zero. Too risky to even consider.

    Combined votes of all Scottish election candidates who said they supported Viking Energy 2084. Votes for only candidate who said he opposed Viking Energy, 2845, 761more than combined votes of Viking Energy supporting candidates.

    Sure, Tavish played a canny game by refusing point blank to state his position during the election. But called for a quick verdict on Viking Energy within hours of being re-elected. I’m sure there’s a word for that somewhere.

    The election was about many issues. The final outcome was largely decided on voting habit rather than policies. Why else would Tavish win by more than 2000 votes, but fail to deliver a yes vote on AV, his parties own campaigning position?

  • James Stewart

    • May 9th, 2011 13:11

    It really doesn’t matter what Tavish’s own personal view on the windfarm is, I feel. At the end of the day, if the pro or anti VE brigades declare that they have the majority support of Shetlanders they are being dishonest. There’s no evidence to suggest anything on either side. Tavish is elected to represent Shetland, and Shetland is entirely split on this issue. It’s not his place to give his private opinion on a professional matter. Do we care if he believes in Allah, too?

  • Gordon Harmer

    • May 9th, 2011 13:11

    Kevin you should purchase a new abacus as the 2,845 votes were made from those who oppose and those who support the wind farm. I knew this would happen, Billy Fox said this election was not a referendum on the wind farm and you are treating it as such. You should practice what you preach in your letter about Tavish going back on what he said before people tar you with his brush.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • May 9th, 2011 16:22

    My name is Kevin Learmonth and I come from up your way,
    If you want to massage figures it’s as easy as what I say,
    You multiply one by eight hundred and it becomes a majority,
    Then you add on Billy’s voters and the marchers one two three,
    You move the decimal point three more places to the right,
    Then times it by Pythagoras and then if your not that bright,
    I’ll move every thing north north east to the power of ninety six,
    And iv’e won the referendum by simple mathematics.

  • Ian Tinkler

    • May 9th, 2011 21:05

    Gordon Harmer, are you writing about me (Ian) ro Ali Inkster. Are you becoming confused?
    Ps. I am Iam

  • Ian Tinkler

    • May 9th, 2011 21:06

    For Iam read Ian. Dyslexia rules!

  • Bert Morrison

    • May 9th, 2011 22:00

    As Benjamin Disraeli once said ‘There are lies, damned lies and statistics’. As far as Viking Energy goes; we could all talk till the cows come home and at the end of the day some people will be pleased if the windfarm is approved and some will be displeased. That’s life unfortunately.

    As far as Shetlands economic future goes we need to ensure we do not allow our islands to be driven into the ground as jobs disappear when oil and gas inevitably goes. We need to diversify, be proactive, work hard, use our ingenuity and above all be positive and forward thinking. I believe we must not turn our backs on the renewables revolution, it simply offers far too much for an area which has very few significant future growth opportunities. I want Shetlands prosperity to continue; it is that simple. Unemployment and lack of opportunities is not a nice place to be. You may disagree Kevin.

  • roberta clubb

    • May 10th, 2011 12:05

    Who is turning their backs on the Renewables Revolution , Mr Morrison ? .

    Maybe you just have not “got it”./ understood it
    ….yet !

    The campaign is against this particular Viking Energy proposal, for all the many reasons stated since its inception.

    The right renewable solution for our Shetland Isles can happen and hopefully, will happen.
    When this Giant is laid to rest.

    All other suitable- scale- solutions onshore / offshore can be considered.
    At least we would have time to work, togetherfor what is best for Shetland in terms of development, scale, choice . tourism, communities, landscape , natural environment protection and so on.

    The Goodwill of the people could be restored when involved in a future debate for a suitable alternative way forward . This could contribute to a solution with genuine concern about our precious local environment….. and about the population living in it as an integral part of it.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • May 10th, 2011 13:02

    Sorry Iam or Ian its my age and these dam varifocals I should re address that to Ali

  • Bert Morrison

    • May 10th, 2011 23:48

    Suitable scale – who determines that (Maybe the people who deem the red ‘T’ pn the Thule Bar unsuitable – two blocks down from the traditionally styled Lloyds TSB) Is it 5MW, 10MW, 50MW, 100MW, 500MW or a GW? Is it as somebody recently suggested a small turbine planted on every croft – the place will look like it has a forrest of them! Is it enough to make Shetland self sufficient? Whatever it is it will be planted in somebodies view and no doubt annoy them if they are that way minded.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and personally I do not find a wind turbine offensive to look at, especially as I know it is serving a purpose which will become ever more important as we head into the future.

    We will await the decision of the new SNP government. With a target of 130,000 jobs in the low carbon economy and 100% of the electricity that Scotland needs from renewables by 2020; Alex Salmond means business.

  • Billy Fox

    • May 11th, 2011 10:24

    Bert, I’ve resisted replying directly to you up till now, feeling I have made my arguments elsewhere over the last few years.

    What would give your views credibility is to put your money where your mouth is. When I see you giving up your lucrative employment in the ‘waning’ oil industry in exchange for your ‘renewables revolution’ then I may give more credence to your sustainable committment.

    And just where do you get the idea that Viking Energy and the ensuing proliferation that an interconnector cable would bring would not constitute a forest (of Redwoods)?

    It is not just about visual amenity however, it is the wholesale destruction of valuable carbon sink habitat which will do more to mitigate climate change if left intact. The green agenda, after all, is why we are pursuing renewable energy it’s not meant to be about subsidised revenue stream!

    Apologies for the personal nature of my comment but your hyprocrisy is beginning to annoy me.

  • roberta clubb

    • May 11th, 2011 11:00

    There is an assumption here that visual impact is the main objection to the turbine development. that it is about peoples` preferences. (.Beauty and all that …)
    That spin has been used repeatedly by individuals and P.R. in a trivial dismissive way about .this business.

    There is no denying that what we see everywhere is important to us . Related Scale and proportion to surroundings is of the essence
    . We are visually literate enough to know when something is gross in a Shetland context , judging by comments on several unimaginative examples all around us.

    Visual impact runs deep. It is not merely a case of ” bonnie” / or “ugly” .
    As the poet said “Truth is Beauty…”

    It should have been reasonably high on the list in the letter or perhaps top of the list for these reasons,

    roberta clubb

  • Bert Morrison

    • May 13th, 2011 0:03

    Billy, Apology accepted. When one puts their head above the parapet; they can expect to have a shot or two to come their way. I would prefer it to not become too personal and will keep it out of my reply. You have had to endure more than most in the cause that you believe in.

    There is; no doubt misunderstandings on both sides. So for the record I will outline some of the reasons why I support the subsea transmission cable proposed by SHETL and by association Viking Energy.

    The primary reason is that as a father of three children, all under school age (The youngest being born only 10 days ago); I am genuinely concerned about the future for them and all other Shetland children as they grow up, gain an education and establish their own independent lives. For them a working life may be up to 2075 or longer. By then the world and Shetland is likely to be a very different to today. How can they possibly enjoy anything like the standard of living that an average Shetlander enjoys today without some kind of diversification from the current mainstays of our economy?

    In the 1970’s purely by fortunate geology; Shetland became the hub of North Sea oil, creating a new income stream in our economy. Through the Charitable Trust this income stream supports many spin off jobs. You and I were fortunate to gain employment at Sullom Voe Terminal. The SVT project had its opponents; just as Viking has today. Some people thought Shetland didn’t need it, some feared the changes to the Shetland way of life that the incomers would bring. The changes to the lives of locals in Graven, Mossbank, Voe and Brae must have been immense. What if the opponents had won their argument; what if you were 40 years older and leading that fight in 1973? With fishing, fish processing, crofting and knitting all decimated since then would our population be sitting at around 22,000? Probably not.

    The progression to a low carbon economy worldwide in this century is vital. The first reason is global warming. I am no ‘Swampy the eco warrior, I will leave that to Greenpeace. The second reason is world oil and gas reserves are finite. Humanity simply must make the transition to some other form of energy. Unless science establishes the much fabled Nuclear Fusion; renewables will become progressively more important. Assuming the wind keeps blowing, the tide doesn’t stop and there are still waves; why will renewables in Shetland not still be going in 25, 50, 75 or 100 years+.

    I simply believe Shetlands economy must diversify to cope with changes in the future and that the Renewable Energy sector offers Shetland too much to turn away.

    For me the future of our children comes well ahead of the ‘valuable carbon sink’ reasoning.

    I am sorry if you are annoyed by my letters. They are written with good intent and no deliberate hypocrisy as you accused me off.

    Finally one definition of hypocrisy is putting the ‘valuable carbon sink’ reasoning at the centre of the case against Viking but letting the new Total Gas Plant go through without so much as a whisper (Carbon payback time on that one?). For the record I fully support Totals Gas Plant – it diversifies our economy.

    Best regards,


  • Ian Hornby

    • May 13th, 2011 10:20

    The windfarm plans should be scrapped for the following reasons:

    It’s only profitable because of government renewable subsidies and forcing energy companies to buy the power above other energy forms. The government recently slashed it’s subsidy of ‘solar’ power which many say will kill that industry, when will this happen to onshore wind ? (it will happen, but when, probably once a few more are built and then they pull the rug away, leaving shetland with biggest white elephant as 30% of it’s power is lost in transmission losses), the deficit is still growing and the easy fruit will soon be off the tree.

    Forcing power companies to buy renewable is causing problems on the grid were they are paying huge sums (2-3 times the value of the power for companies to not have their wind farm online, as production is too high (to windy that day), I can’t believe this situation will be allowed to continue.
    The capital cost of the project could be significantly higher than the estimate, this type of project with shetland climate & its scale & significant challenges like peat bogs. Borrowing is cheap now, but interest rates are set to rise and borrowing costs will eat up allot of any profit.

    Have a referendum on it as it’s so divided the island, if it was to go ahead regardless, it will not be the end of the issue, I can see peaceful direct action being a problem.

    Building new power stations has to be prioritised very soon before they have to decommission the existing old ones, but no companies want to build them due to them not being able to guarantee selling the power, so a catch 22 for government at the moment. The country needs power stations no matter how many windfarms it has. I would welcome a nuclear power station here, rather than Viking.

  • Billy Fox

    • May 24th, 2011 20:35

    Bert, for the same concerns you have for future generations I am opposed to such a large scale development as Viking Energy for Shetland.

    You appear to be quite happy to cover our islands with large turbines to the detriment of our environment, tourism, possible runoff effects on aquaculture, quality of life, effects on property values etc, for speculative subsidised revenue in the short term, paid out of the electricity consumers’ and taxpayers’ pockets. It is a scale of development in our limited landscape I could never contemplate, it also fails on three counts: irreparable environmental damage, economic risk, and inability to provide energy security.

    The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainable development as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. This is open to individual interpretation, in my view Viking Energy does not sit within it, for you it apparently does and there we must simply agree to differ.

    If you are worried about future generations, and I do not doubt you are, then we must look to preserve biodiversity, not least important carbon sinks such as peat habitat. In this respect unfortunately, there must still be practical sacrifices such as the Total development, which is necessary given our current dependence on oil and gas for several transitionary decades to come.

    The Total development does impact on peat moorland but the area is contained and a solution of sorts has been established by bunding and keeping the extracted peat wet. How this will work when reinstatement is required remains to be seen and will undoubtedly be problematic.

    What is different with the Total development is that it is not a subsidised ‘green’ project; oil and gas companies cannot make such claims. However, economically they do stand on their own feet and contribute significantly to the UK exchequer. As end users for as long as we wish to run our cars and consume oil and gas products we must accept responsibility for that! At least gas is the cleanest of fossil fuels and is the only real backup fuel for adding a realistic penetration of renewables to the electricity grid for the short to medium term.

    Something which is noteworthy is the amount of peat extraction which has occurred on the Total site, with a second bund being constructed and some 700,000 cubic metres now contained; twice the original estimate of 350,000! Given such an underestimate from a relatively confined area, what level of accuracy can we expect from the extensive area which Viking Energy could potentially cover?

    Finally I apologise for not replying sooner but I have been taking a break in the Western Isles and experiencing some ‘world class’ wind while doing so. As indicated I am not in favour of large scale variable renewables as they cannot be regarded as a base load supply, but can only play a supplementary role. Given such inappropriate development however, Shetland certainly does not have a monopoly on wind as I experienced, and the Western Isles would not require such a lengthy interconnector.

    So why is Shetland so attractive? The obvious difference between ourselves and the Western Isles is our impressionable council and our pot of money, that’s right, our money! A council which signed a partnership agreement they will not allow the Shetland public to see – one dreads to contemplate what lies hidden in the small print!

  • Bert Morrison

    • May 28th, 2011 13:49

    Billy, Thanks for your reasoned response. I suspect that most people (apart from the most militant) whether for or against Viking Energys proposals have a shade of grey somewhere in there thoughts and even worries about what this new ‘Industrial Revolution’ (as Alex Salmond puts it) will bring. I am no different – life is not black or white. If I did not forsee a looming energy crisis within my lifetime; I probably would be a lot less in favour of renewables.

    You metioned the transition which we will have to make over the next few decades from oil and gas to something else. How mankind makes this transition is at the forefront of politics worldwide. For me this means a radical change in our expections in life, increased energy effieciency and a move towards more sustainable forms of energy supply and ways of living. We have to remember that humans may be on this planet for many more thousands of years and we will have used in around 200 years up pretty much all the oil and gas which has taken 100’s of millions of years to form.

    There is no doubt that cheap oil and gas has spoiled us over the last 40 years. With central heating now widespread; the expection is that we can sit in our houses summer and winter in a T-shirts in perfect comfort where once we would have worn our gansies to stay warm. We thinking nothing now of jumping in our cars and driving a short distance where once we would have taken Shanks pony. Where once we made for the peat hill for our winter heating, now most of us use oil, gas or electricity. All this modern convenience and expectations of course has a huge impact on our energy usage and carbon footprint.

    Personally I expect Nuclear will play a big part in future energy supply at least in the short term but from a sustainability point of view; energy which has been ultimately derived from the Sun and the Moon (wind, wave, tide, hydro, solar) harnessed in an efficient way and converted to electricity with efficient storage (buffer) systems to even out the supply and demand peaks must be the aim of mankind.

    I guess the Jury is still out on whether Alex Salmond is a meglomaniac or a man with vision ahead of his time. Whatever happens with future energy supply it is sure to be controversial, it will take huge financial investment and carry risk.


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