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?