Let me state straight away that I am neither vehemently opposed to nor supporting the proposed Viking Energy industrial windfarm.
I expect we will never fully resolve people’s views on the visual impact of over 100 giant turbines on a distant hill, their potential economic success or failure, whether it is a sensible gamble with such a large financial outlay of the “oil money”, or the web of potential conflicts for many of the major figures involved.
We certainly won’t have the “for” and “against” folk having a collective “hug-in” any time soon. It is also a certainty that Shetland needs an economic future of some description.
What I find annoying is there are several very vocal protagonists for the scheme who regularly or at intervals appear in the letters pages telling us to “embrace the economic future” and “don’t be so stupid” as to delay things, but who in reality are going to suffer little in the way of day to day or lasting impact on their lives by “it”.
We have a handful “oot wast” who have been very vocal but who are not within 10 miles of the proposed turbines and definitely not having to look at them day-in, day-out.
I want these same people to listen to the Shetlanders who are going to live in close proximity to the proposed turbines, in fact, some in very close proximity. They will have them within a kilometre or two and will have to have the effects of them every time they step out of the door, day and night, and on reading many reports worldwide, potentially when they are indoors as well.
These are areas that families have lived in for generations and on land with which they are inextricably linked. They cannot just move but will have to live with any potential problems for at least 25-30 years.
Firstly there is the lengthy construction phase which any project of this size will have, but then there is the potential for health problems caused by mechanical and sound wave noise, shadow flicker or just visual proximity problems.
These issues are coming to light more and more globally in communities in close proximity to industrial windfarms and need to be closely assessed. Shetland is far too small and close knit a community for potential problems like this not to cause rifts to be formed between local people and communities.
I would not even take bets on the reaction of the vocal people mentioned above if plans were suddenly put forward to build a turbine or two or a big industrial shed next to their little Shetland idyll that they could have staring at them each time they peered out of the door.
Perhaps a contracted house swap for six months each year with folk in Nesting, Aith, Kergord or East Burrafirth would be a good plan; or perhaps even contributing to a compensation fund for potential house value losses with their own hard cash. These are serious and unanswered questions.
That is the art of debate and winning people over: you talk, listen, understand, and overcome and resolve objections. Shouting the same things louder is just a sign of ignorance and means that we will still all be arguing about this in 10 years’ time. That, as we know, is most definitely not the answer.