How representative? (Mike Bennett)

Both sides in the windfarm debate are understandably lobbying the Shetland Charitable Trust prior to their important meeting on Thursday. The latest attempt to influence their decision comes from the Windfarm Supporters Group who have turned to the Shetland business community for support. 

My latest copy of the Shetland Classified Business List shows no fewer than 158 pages of local businesses and I am wondering how representative the supporters group sample size was. Certainly in the context of this many businesses, the 140 who have signed represent a very small minority indeed. Furthermore, the signatories do not necessarily indicate the support of their workforce, indeed it is not impossible that the strength of the support shown by the letter is just 140 individuals. Is this really representative of the business community ?
If recent letters in the media are anything to go by, then the public perception of much of the retail side of the business community in Lerwick is one of poor vision, little concern for the needs of the community and a lack of initiative and effort when it comes to attracting visitors. If they are the entrepreneurs that drive our economy I would think twice before accepting their endorsement. Perhaps the hope of easy money will mean that they can continue to slumber peacefully in The Street without the need to raise their game. 
As for the rest, it is not difficult to identify those with clear self-interest. There are, however, some such as Framgord, who do not fall into either category. Owner Frank Johnson presents a very reasoned viewpoint when balancing his concerns over the financial risk involved, considering the impending reduction in subsidies, and the sheer scale of the project, versus the need for an inter-connector (still only an item on VE’s wish-list) and the hope of economic benefits. Certainly, if the inter-connector is ever laid then the number of new applications for turbines is likely to increase in the short term, adding to Frank’s concerns over the scale of wind-based energy production in Shetland. 
My overwhelming concern with Frank’s views is that he has been quoted as saying that it was “unfortunate” for those living close to turbines. Unfortunate! That doesn’t even begin to recognise the problem. Does he have any idea of the stress and worry that has already been caused to those who live in dread of the turbines lowering over their homes? I am not affected – yet. But not a day goes past that I don’t think of and worry for those whose lives will be ruined. Frank goes on to say that he hopes that the turbines will be a one-generation phenomenon. How can anyone even consider inflicting the human cost involved in glibly writing off a generation? The implication is that those affected are expendable in the unseemly scramble for money. Business men, yes – human beings with compassion and soul – no, not one of them. 
Perhaps we should put our trust in the trust. Is a letter from 140 people really going to sway the minds of intelligent members of SCT? The “wise” trustees led by that “astute” duo of Messrs Ratter and Wills are surely not for buying or persuasion – are they ? They are honourable, thinking people with keen intellects – aren’t they? They will see that they are being urged to play a dangerous game with someone else’s money. They won’t want the epitaph “They gambled and lost” and the notoriety that will accompany a foolish, risky and greedy decision – will they?
Mike Bennett


Add Your Comment
  • Rosemary Macklin

    • June 24th, 2012 13:55

    To add to what Mike has said, I spent a rainy afternoon adding up the number of entries in the Local Business A-Z of the new directory and came up with 1332. in order to give the Windfarm Supporters Group a fighting chance, I only counted the whole page devoted to the SIC as one entry. There were 135 companies listed in the advert in the Shetland Times so that only represents about 10% of the business community. Not exactly a ringing endorsement and not one that I would want to broadcast.

  • Leslie Lowes

    • June 24th, 2012 22:12

    The Viking Windfarm Project has moved far beyond counting the number of advocates and what percentage of this population or that population they represent. That is yesterday’s argument.

    Viking has approval from the Scottish government and is going ahead and so will the interconnector that will export renewable energy to the mainland from Shetland, bringing in millions of pounds to the Shetland economy and new jobs and business opportunities for many years and allowing new renewable sources to be developed here.

    There is only one more decision to be taken. Should the Shetland Charitable Trust invest a further six million pounds in the project as their contribution to take Viking forward to commencement? If they do, the trust’s income will in future receive a considerable “windfall” and in addition, the local community benefit will result in very large sums going directly into local communities to support whatever they feel is worthy of investment in their own localities.

    All of this will bring a new era of prosperity to Shetland, similar to the oil boom we have already experienced and prospered by. And this time, it could last a whole lot longer than the oil boom as the new off-shore energies of tide and wave power are developed and serviced by local companies here.

    As I said, only one decision remains to be made and that is an investment decision by the Shetland Charitable Trust. For the future prosperity and well being of this community that investment decision should be yes. For the future benefit it will bring to the Charitable Trust’s own capital, that decision should be yes.

    As a sensible, profitable investment for the Trust and for Shetland too, the only decision is yes, go ahead and invest. This community will thank the current unelected trustees for it for many years to come and no doubt if elected trustees are brought in, they too will be thankful such a beneficial investment was made.

    There is no need for any further prevarication. The business case for investment by the Trust has been made. The way ahead is clear and Scotland’s top charity experts have stated there is no conflict of interest for Shetland councillors sitting as Charitable Trust trustees when making decisions about investments for the future benefit of the trust itself.

    If by chance Trustees did decide not to invest further in Viking, other investors would quickly move in to share in the considerable profits that are going to result from this development. The Trust’s influence and control over it on behalf of this community would then be compromised and Shetland would have very little influence on the biggest financial windfall this community has ever known and all the benefits this development could bring.

    There is no case for a “no” vote to investment and a very compelling case for “yes.” It is time to cut the cackle and get on with the job for the sake of this community.

  • Johan Adamson

    • June 25th, 2012 9:09

    Do we need another oil boom? Other parts of Scotland manage well without one. Are we being too greedy? For every gain there is a loss, for every debit there is a credit: Investments go up as well as down. I look at pictures on TV of starvation in Africa and realise we are looking at our greed.

    Land is in short supply – do we really need to use all ours to make a risky investment?

    Capital – the money the charitable trust has to play with – that’s ours and was supposed to be for all the people of Shetland, not just those outwith the windfarm perimeter. It has to be invested wisely, by non-council Trustees and council Trustees – to make sure it is fair.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • June 26th, 2012 14:52

    The Council and the Shetland Charitable Trust did not have the right to draw up a contract with Viking Energy in the first instance, without the people of Shetland having a say, when it comes to dishing out huge sums of our money, the Councillors do not seem to give a hoot, for the feelings of the people of Shetland, these wind farm will totally destroy folks lively hood and there community, Sustainable Shetland are fighting very hard to get this nonsense stop, we don’t need these monstrosity’s of wind farms all over Shetland, the time has come for the people of Shetland to unite and get this stopped, we cant have Councillors Ratter and Wills and Company dictating to us, we must take a stand AGAINST these wind farms now.
    Sandy McMillan


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