Sustainable Shetland will investigate launching a judicial review into last week’s approval of the Viking Energy windfarm.
The proposal by chairman Billy Fox to explore the legal avenue was unanimously backed by 160 people at a hastily-arranged meeting in Tingwall on Tuesday night. But new blood is needed to lead the pressure group if it is to maintain its fight against the windfarm.
Should a judicial review take place a public inquiry may, after all, be held. It would examine the decisions made leading up to the approval last Wednesday by energy minister Fergus Ewing.
Mr Fox insisted there was evidence to suggest much of the investigative process leading to approval of the 103-turbine development merited the review. He said a 69-page report by the SIC’s planning department had recommended refusal. That, he said, had been “turned down” in favour of a four-page socio-economic report which had been “cobbled together in a few days”.
Mr Fox also played a 2008 recorded interview where Viking Energy project manager Allan Wishart insisted no decision on the windfarm would be taken until a public health impact assessment had been carried out. The meeting heard no such report was ever made public.
Doubts were cast over the interests of the nine councillors who voted in favour of the windfarm in December 2010, with many taking the view that public concerns had been swept under the carpet by elected representatives.
Concerns were raised that only one of the nine members who had voted in favour of Viking was standing again in May’s election – although in reality several did not vote because of their involvement with Viking Energy.
North Isles candidate Robert Henderson was the only council member to support the windfarm who is still fighting for his seat in the next term.
Mr Fox was confident Sustainable Shetland still had a future, post-government-consent, but urged willing participants to come forward to lead the pressure body after May’s council elections, in which he is standing as a candidate in Shetland South, take place. He will have to stand down from that point on.
Mr Fox said: “As far as Sustainable Shetland is concerned the best thing we can look at first is probably a judicial review. It doesn’t deal with the pros and cons of the project. It deals with how the decision was made, and decides whether the decision was flawed.
“There is a need for more folk to step forward soon. That is crucial. As you will know I am standing for the council, and if elected I will have to back away from Sustainable Shetland.
“I have to back off, which means there’s going to have to be somebody who will step forward and make a considerable commitment. We have over 800 members. We are a significant group in the Shetland community.”
Mr Fox called on those present to attend Monday’s Shetland Charitable Trust meeting, where trustees are expected to agree investing a further £6.3 million into the project.
He also urged people to telephone trustees to express their opposition, including unelected representatives Bobby Hunter and Valerie Nicolson, and challenged them to justify use of public funds on the windfarm.
Mr Fox said: “My particular take on it is that, as trustees, they have to look after the funds that belong to the Shetland public. They should ask Viking Energy Limited to give them a detailed spend on where the £3.24 million that has already been spent has gone, and a detailed spend of the £6.3 million they are asking for before they get any more money.”