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.

Robina Barton


Add Your Comment
  • Veda tait

    • November 29th, 2016 20:34

    Robina Barton,
    You stated ‘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.’
    Well I don’t think so! Schools have been closed, Public toilets in winter are not open due to cuts. Christmas Bonus’s have been stopped to those of us less fortunate due to lack of money.
    Wind in Shetland is a resourse when harnessed for power! You speak about wildlife! Sheep have destroyed so very much of the flora which affects the bee’s who pollinate the native flowers. Heather berries are near to extinct because of them, but I don’t preach ‘Get rid of the sheep!’ they give us wool and good lamb to eat. I could go on with more! I will just state that Sustainable Shetland so called do not I feel see past their own time of life in our beautiful Islands and do not view the welfare of the future generations to come.

  • Veda tait

    • November 29th, 2016 20:47

    Throughout the UK windfarms are sustainable, Burradale’s Turbine puts out more Electricity than any other in the world! Tells us something of the natural resourses in our Isles. Our world is changing Electric cars are becoming the norm. Most people are interested in clean energy and want to be a part of healing our planet for future generations. I know Donald Trump has the same attitude as Sustainable Shetland! Dosen’t think global warming is happening.


    Veda tait.

    • laurence paton

      • November 30th, 2016 13:46

      By how much has fossil fuel consumption reduced at the Lerwick power station since Burradale and the other two big wind generators started producing?

      Surely that figure could be published monthly to the exact litre ?

      Perhaps more folk would get behind wind power if this fuel saving was made regular public knowledge ?

      • Gary Robinson

        • December 1st, 2016 9:05

        Laurence, I think the short answer to your question is – not enough.

        The amount of subsidy going into electricity in Shetland is c. £30M per year and this is likely to rise to c. £40M per year when the capital cost of replacing the Lerwick power station is factored in. That amounts to almost £20,000 per person per year. This doesn’t compare favourably with Orkney or the Outer Hebrides, both of which have inter-connectors.

        You’re right to raise the issue of fossil fuel consumption since the environmental cost of burning millions of pounds worth of diesel each year is also high.

        If nothing changes then the monetary cost and the environmental cost is only likely to go up further as fuel prices inevitably rise again and electric vehicles become more commonplace. I also know of at least one local business that was quoted so much for an electricity connection that they decided to install their own diesel generators.

        None of this appears to be very sustainable to me.

      • Johan Adamson

        • December 1st, 2016 11:17

        Im confused re Gary’s figures 20,000 population at £20,000 each I get to multiply to £400 million.

        Anyway, what about using gas from Sullom for local sustainable power needs? What about VE providing islanders with cheaper electricity like a real community scheme would? Part of the problem is not trusting them to use the proceeds of VE to good effect for the community.

        I also wonder how much electricity is lost in the cable as if you build yourself a wind turbine you are advised to build close to your house for maximum effect?

      • ian_tinkler

        • December 1st, 2016 12:48

        So, Gary Robinson, You would advise, a cool one billion Pounds spent on an interconnector. do not forget we would still need the new power station in case of breakdown and no wind blowing, then the cost of VE on top. Not much change from two billion pounds there? That works out at about 80,000 for every man woman and child on Shetland? How does that compare with Orkney? Carbon footprint for that lot would be interesting, you do the maths. Now that lot could keep our Rural Schools open for quite some time!!!

      • John Tulloch

        • December 1st, 2016 13:35


        Are you quoting figures based on the 2014 price of heavy fuel oil, which has since fallen dramatically,l or the price of gas for the new power station at the international gas price from Sullom, currently 0.86p/unit of heat (2.15p/kWh of electricity, if my arithmetic serves me well?

        The 2014 subsidy level is irrelevant to the future cost of running the new plant.

        It makes a dramatic difference to the cost of subsidy.

      • John Tulloch

        • December 1st, 2016 21:00

        Standard SIC arithmetic, Johan.

        Remember the school closures and Shetland’s cost per pupil being exaggerated by 40 percent ?

        And the cost of the proposed Whalsay harbour extension exaggerated by 100 – 200 percent?

        And the cost of the Bluemull Sound tunnel, exaggerated by 400 percent?

        This time it’s the top man and he’s out by a power of 10!

      • Gary Robinson

        • December 2nd, 2016 5:44

        Sorry Johan, it should have read £2000 per person not £20,000 – consequence of typing on my phone!

        Sadly, I’m led to believe that the gas option for any new power station is off the table.

        At £1Bn, I’m not sure that Ian Tinkler and I are talking about the same inter-connector.

        Lastly, John, I”m quoting figures from a recent DECC Consultation report.

      • John Tulloch

        • December 2nd, 2016 12:02

        Gary, what is the source of your claim that “the gas option for any new power station is off the table”?

        What then remains “on the table”, now?

        Can you provide a link to the DECC consultation report to which you refer as I am unable to find any such report on the internet, including on the websites of DECC and its successor, the Dept of Business and Innovation.

        Don’t you ever think, while all these faceless individuals and organisations are taking decisions about Shetland’s energy supplies behind closed doors, that Shetland would do better if it controlled its own affairs, as the Faroese do?

    • John Tulloch

      • December 1st, 2016 8:29

      I beg to differ, Veda, wind farms are not sustainable without subsidy. Their energy costs 2 – 3 times that of conventional sources and mainland wind generators only generate 20 – 35 percent of their capacity because the wind is intermittent.

      So you have to pay huge sums on top of the already high renewables price for conventional power stations to cover the times when there isn’t enough wind.

      Ditto for energy storage.

      • laurence paton

        • December 1st, 2016 23:47

        Councillor Robinson,

        Not enough is not a valid answer.

        Why has no figures ever been produced on either volume of diesel not burnt or actual cold hard cash saved thanks to the Burradale wind generators?

        Surely presenting these exact figures is within the realm of mathematical possibility ?

        Would these hard facts not be the best way to promote wind energy ?

  • John Irvine

    • November 30th, 2016 18:21

    Very well said Robina, you`ve hit every nail well and truly on the head.

    I am convinced that if VE were to go ahead there would be a very limited number who would benefit and that would certainly not be the environment or Shetland on a the whole.
    The former MEP Struan Stevenson who was president of the European Parliament’s Climate Change, Biodiversity & Sustainable Development Intergroup, wrote a booklet and various articles, one of which was aptly entitled “The rape of Britain”. Have a look at what he has written, it makes for a very informative and enlightening read.

  • ian tinkler

    • November 30th, 2016 23:14

    Yesterday, “Tinkler said that “on a much more positive note” he would “fight tooth and nail to preserve and strengthen our rural schools” and “utterly oppose centralisation of Shetland amenities to Lerwick”, fight the “desecration of our landscape” by the Viking Energy windfarm and the “damage to our seascape” from the Scottish Government’s “blue seas green energy” policy.” Remember we have a Council election next year. Make your voices heard, Too many Councillors last time around claimed they were not happy with VE and the SCT. They were just being dishonest, no more no less. Check their past manifestos and spot the disingenuous ones. Many manifestoes claim’s are still available on the web. Unpleasant just how dishonest some people can be.

    • David Spence

      • December 1st, 2016 12:52

      Ian, I think it would be only right that there should be a public enquiry into the fiasco between the Shetland Charitable Trust and this of Viking Energy, and the millions (more than likely wasted) this company has used of Shetland money. I believe it is around the £11 million mark, and the costs are escalating to such a level, I believe, it makes this project a none viable option economically?

      As well as this, what assurances are there that VE will pay to the Shetland people the money they have borrowed, and over what period this payback will be………(as in not an indefinite period where, in affect, nothing will be paid back).

      Ian, if you get elected next year, will you look into this and have a public enquiry or a thorough investigation, but not behind closed doors, lets say?

      • ian_tinkler

        • December 1st, 2016 16:41

        Absolutely, David, Unfortunately these “public servants” are very good at covering their tracks and hiding their true motives. If all goes “pear shaped” as looks likely with VE, in the words of Trump, perhaps the appointment of a “Public Prosecutor/Investigator” may be prudent. That is about the only thing Trump said that I could ever agree with!!!

  • Donnie Morrison

    • December 1st, 2016 14:18

    I might be off on a tangent here but I find myself confused as to why it took Ms Tait four years to comment on Robina Barton’s letter – maybe she could enlighten us?

    • ian_tinkler

      • December 1st, 2016 17:17

      Donnie, I think she is trying to remind the West Side about Gary Robinson’s promises that he would oppose Viking Energy.

  • shirley neumann

    • December 5th, 2016 11:45

    I agree with John Tulloch re windfarms not being sustainable without subsidy. Wind and solar power are intermittent…. Power generation needs a constant supply which these can’t deliver. There is also the problem of “national grid capacity” where over supply needs to be dealt with.

    I’m a Shetlander, living in Germany, and can attest to that fact…. We, as householders, pay mega bucks to subsidise these enterprises.

    Germany is way ahead of UK on “green issues”. In the past 5 and a half years our electricity bills have sky-rocketed!… About the highest in Europe. Having, from experience, realised the pitfalls, the Government plans to scale back wind power next year….. Cost, intermittent generation problems and CO2 emissions not falling as hoped for , an impetus.

    Essentially, we tax-paying householders, pay twice.

    1) “GREEN TAXES” for green energy – to consume it… and also to pay for times when there is a surplus, the grid can’t cope and the Government has to COMPENSATE PROVIDERS for shutting down… They also have to PAY CONSUMERS (ie. OTHER COUNTRIES..NOT US LOCALS!!) to take the excess!!

    2) We pay for “CONVENTIONAL ENERGY ( coal, oil, nuclear) to, necessarily, be on STANDBY AT ALL TIMES… to meet demand when there is a shortfall… eg no wind / sun.

    All this is at financial cost, ultimately, to the German householder who, while being, for decades, carers of the environment and seeking “green solutions” , now weighs up the full impact, not just financially but also of what those windfarms have done to the countryside and to people’s health…. and the fact that independent providers seem to be the ones to benefit most, financially… They win, generate or not!

    Have searched for an article in English on this topic… Check… dailycaller.com/2016/05/11/germany-forced-people-to-use-traditional-electricity-to-prevent-green-energy-meltdown/

    It indicates the problem, to some extent


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