Court of Session starts judicial review of windfarm consent on Tuesday

While the attention of many will be focused on Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ next week, those gathered in an Edinburgh court room will have their minds on a different sort of Viking.

Tuesday will be the first day of the Court of Session’s judicial review of Scottish ministers’ decision to grant consent for Viking Energy’s controversial 103-turbine windfarm.

Protest group Sustainable Shet­land, which represents more than 800 members, petitioned the court because it believes Scottish minis­ters acted unlawfully in approving the project without staging a public local inquiry.

Four days have been set aside at the Court of Session, though it is possible the judicial review could run into the following week. The hearing will begin with evidence from Sustainable Shetland’s legal team, followed by a response from government lawyers. Although it is not the respondent, Viking Energy has also chosen to be represented and will give its evidence last.

Should the judge accept the petition in full and quash consent for the project, it could result in the Scottish government triggering the public inquiry which campaigners have persistently called for.

However, the judge may reject the petition, meaning Viking Energy would be free to continue the next stages of development, or order a course of action somewhere in between.

It is possible the judge’s ruling may not be published for several weeks after the hearing concludes.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Andrew Halcrow told The Shetland Times that the group had put forward nine main points of argument.

Among its grounds for launching the legal challenge are the potential impact on the Shetland landscape and on protected bird species, distur­bance of peat bogs and the fact that pleas for an inquiry were not heeded. The organisation also points out that the government’s energy consents unit received 2,772 objections, compared to 1,115 submissions in support.

“We’re obviously hoping for a successful outcome for us,” Mr Halcrow said. “That decision lies with the judge – he has to weigh up the evidence and decide whether the minister acted unlawfully or not.”

A Viking Energy spokesman said the company could not comment on particular details of the case while the legal process was ongoing.

He added: “However, we think the Scottish government and our­selves have a robust case to argue. In the meantime we will continue to work towards delivering the project and the significant benefits to Shetland that would follow.”

Energy minister Fergus Ewing gave the project the green light last April after civil servants had spent over a year examining the application.

Sustainable Shetland lodged its petition calling for a judicial review in July, later in the year securing a protective order capping its finan­cial liability – should it lose the case – at £5,000. If it wins, Sustainable Shetland will be able to claim up to £30,000 from the Scottish government.

In an advert in today’s news­paper, Sustainable Shetland is appealing to those who support its cause to make a financial contri­bution towards the cost of preparing and making its case. Should the group raise more money than it requires, it will offer proportionate refunds to its backers.


Add Your Comment
  • Douglas Young

    • January 26th, 2013 9:40

    We wish them luck in Edinburgh with their case against SSE and Viking Energy.
    The energy consents for and against show clearly what the majority would like to see as the outcome.

  • Rosa Steppanova

    • January 26th, 2013 12:46

    Please allow me to point out that your article on the judicial review contains a paragraph which is open to misinterpretation.The £5000 cost capping your reporter mentions only concerns Sustainable Shetland’s financial contribution towards the legal costs of the Scottish Ministers – should the organisation lose the judicial review.

    In that case, Sustainable Shetland also has to pay its own legal fees, which will be substantial, in full, hence our appeal for contributions to the Shetland public.

  • Robert Lowes

    • January 26th, 2013 18:18

    You’d think they wouldn’t need to ask for money, given how they represent the majority of Shetlanders. The cash ought to be flowing in.

    Unless that’s not true of course. But that couldn’t be, could it?

  • ian tinkler

    • January 26th, 2013 21:54

    A quick prayer for Shetland may not go amiss.

  • Ian Right

    • January 27th, 2013 13:18

    Mr.Tinkler….”A quick prayer for Shetland may not go amiss”
    Are you ‘compos mentis’ (I know-you know-that’s Latin!!)

  • John Tulloch

    • January 27th, 2013 20:04

    How apt that it should begin on Up Helly-Aa Day.

  • ian tinkler

    • January 27th, 2013 21:00

    O dear, Ian Right, Do you believe only your God has the right to be prayed to? All those who have other views are non-compos mentis perhaps, that would be a very arrogant and not a very Christian view would it not?

  • Sandy McDonald

    • January 27th, 2013 21:21

    Iain, going by your comments in Peter Jamiensons letter I take it you mean a secular prayer? A prayer to reason perhaps?

  • ian tinkler

    • January 28th, 2013 8:50

    Sandy, in this case, every type of prayer known, I am agnostic. A prayer to reason, certainly.

  • chris pearson

    • January 28th, 2013 12:16

    Judicial review starting on Up Helly Aa,
    Where are all the conspiracy theories?

  • Ian Right

    • January 28th, 2013 13:19

    “O dear, Ian Right, Do you believe only your God has the right to be prayed to? All those who have other views are non-compos mentis perhaps, that would be a very arrogant and not a very Christian view would it not?”

    It might be ‘if’ I believed in ‘diety(ies)!
    You obviously left in a ‘hurry’ from Peter Jamieson discussion and didn’t read my last comments to yourself!
    On the subject of being arrogant.. perhaps Robert Sim in his comment in ‘The Future of Constitution’ has you summed up pretty well as Jane Leask did in her comments about you….don’t you think?
    Robert Sim and the views of all the other people in these discussions are important to them as yours are to yourself and general courtesy should prevail
    whether we agree or not.

    Thanks for clearing that up Sandy.

  • Sandy McMillan

    • January 28th, 2013 14:26

    Give up on this Godly thing, and put your mind and heart with those in Edinburgh who have the gut to take on SSE, Viking Energy, and to wish them all the best in there plight to save our Shetland from destruction


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