A few thoughts on fairness (Robina Barton)
I have been thinking a lot about fairness in relation to the Viking Energy project since the decision to grant planning permission was taken by the Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing.
If the windfarm is not built, perhaps Shetland might lose out financially (although it would still be the richest local authority in Scotland) but everyone would be in the same boat together.
If the project does go ahead this will not be not the case. There will be clearly defined losers.
I appreciate that sometimes everyone has to give a little for the greater good, but the communities of Aith, Nesting, Voe, Whiteness and Weisdale who will be living within a large industrial development are being asked to take a pretty big one for the team.
This is a bitter pill to swallow, but it is made all the more bitter because there are a number of questions as to the rightness and propriety of the process of development and decision-making that remain unanswered:
• Is it right and proper that a very large percentage of the public money held by Shetland Charitable Trust should be used for a commercial venture of this scale?
• Is it right and proper that councillors should make a decision to recommend approval for a project for which they, as charitable trust trustees, are also the developer?
• Is it right and proper that councillors should disregard a comprehensive document put together by their own planning department that recommended the project should not go ahead?
• Is it right and proper that a councillor should reassure concerned communities that a detailed Health Impact Assessment would be carried out before any decision on the Viking Energy project was taken, but not ensure that such an assessment was completed?
• Is it right and proper that statements regarding the economic benefits of a project should be made by Shetland Islands Council and Viking Energy without a thorough assessment of the detrimental impact it may have on other sectors of the economy such as tourism?
• Is it right and proper that the Scottish government should ignore the recommendations of its own environmental agency (SNH) that a purportedly environmental project should not go ahead on environmental grounds?
• Is it right and proper that the Scottish government should ignore the recommendations of key environmental organisations such as the RSPB, the John Muir Trust and Shetland Amenity Trust that a purportedly environmental project should not go ahead on environmental grounds?
• Is it right and proper that the Scottish government should approve a development in which 61 turbines are situated within 2km of dwelling places, in contravention of Scottish government guidelines?
• Is it right and proper that the Scottish government should take a decision to support the Viking Energy project taken by nine out of 22 councillors (who were also Viking developers) as representative of the views of a community, and therefore grounds to avoid a public local enquiry, when they received 2,772 official objections to the Viking Energy project and only 1,115 notices of support?
Until these questions are properly addressed and answered honestly and openly I believe it is unfair, and indeed wrong, to proceed any further with this development.