There seems to be some confusion in John Robertson’s front-page article last week (“Community urged to take share of looming renewables bonanza”). Chiefly, this lies in the distinction between two words: “community” and “council”.
It should not need to be said here, but apparently it does: community ownership and council ownership are not the same thing. The SIC’s determination to “get a piece of the action”, in Alastair Cooper’s words, should absolutely not be considered the only alternative to “allowing big business to run the show and make off with the profits”, as Mr Robertson puts it.
There are in Shetland true examples of community-owned and community-led energy projects, such as those in Fair Isle, in Foula and in Yell. Throughout the UK and Europe there are many other such schemes, both large and small, where local people have a stake and a say in renewable energy developments. Such projects are quite different from the money-making schemes envisaged by Mr Cooper.
If only one lesson is to be learned from our current financial woes, it is surely this: that the economic health of our communities is far too closely aligned to the economic health of the SIC. At this of all times, we ought to be doing something to change that.
If there is to be a “renewables bonanza”, the council and the charitable trust must not be allowed to stand in the way of genuine community ownership. Nor should these terms ever be confused, either deliberately or accidentally. The council is not the community.