Financial boost for anti-windfarm group’s legal fund

Campaign group Sustainable Shetland has been given a £3,000 boost as its legal challenge over the Viking windfarm project draws nearer a conclusion.

The judicial review into the decision to grant planning permission without having a local public inquiry is expected to conclude at the Court of Session in Edinburgh next week.

One of the UK’s leading conservation charities, the John Muir Trust, has donated £3,000 to help cover Sustainable Shetland’s legal costs.

Permission for the 103-turbine windfarm was granted by the Scottish government in 2010. The group’s legal challenge got under way in January, but was adjourned to see whether the UK government wished to get involved. It resumed in early May but legal wrangling resulted in further delays.

Head of policy at the John Muir Trust Helen McDade said the donation was “in the spirit of solidarity with a besieged community, and in support for a just cause”.

“We are delighted to make this donation to Sustainable Shetland’s legal fund. The Trust joins with the group in demanding an inquiry where the claims of the developers can be rigorously tested.

“The development, of 103 turbines, each rising higher than the tallest buildings in Glasgow and Edinburgh, would be visible across most of the Shetland mainland.

“The site will stretch up to 11 miles long and seven miles wide, damaging and destroying precious natural habitats. It will require 65 miles of new roads, up to 10 metres wide, which will be bulldozed through peat and blanket bog, releasing vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere – contributing to the very greenhouse gas emissions this scheme is supposed to be reducing.

“It will mean the construction of a number of new buildings of concrete and steel, and the excavation of a dozen quarries to provide materials.

“We are 100 per cent behind the legal action by Sustainable Shetland to prevent this ecological catastrophe which would severely impact on Shetland’s reputation as a wonderful natural heritage tourism destination.”

Sustainable Shetland’s judicial challenge centres around a claim that the Scottish government failed to comply with its obligations under the EU Birds Directive – in relation to the windfarm’s potential impact on the whimbrel, a migratory wading bird. The government insists it took the birds directive, and the other concerns of objectors, into consideration when making its decision.


Add Your Comment
  • Laughton Johnston

    • June 15th, 2013 13:02

    Open letter to the John Muir Trust

    I am more than disappointed to read that the John Muir Trust has contributed towards the funds of Sustainable Shetland (SS) in opposing the Viking Energy windfarm. The rationale of your support is entirely one-sided, misleading and incorrect. The position is far more complex than you clearly think and does not require a knee-jerk reaction.

    Firstly, the project was democratically approved by Shetland Islands Council on behalf of Shetland. Secondly, SS has always stated that a ‘silent-majority’ oppose the windfarm. There is no doubt that when first mooted the windfarm was probably opposed by more 50% of the population. This was due to the success of a very vocal opposition and due to a general state of ignorance of the impact of the project and its benefits to Shetland. However, the last survey of opinion by the Shetland Times showed that under 30% now opposed the project, over 30% approved and around 30% did not have an opinion one way or the other. This survey supported the findings of the comments to the Scottish Office, after planning amendments to the first planning application, that there was a swing in Shetland public opinion towards support as people gained information. To suggest that your contribution is “in the spirit of solidarity with a besieged community and in support of a just cause” shows a flagrant ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation of the views of Shetland’s people.

    The ‘precious natural habitats’ that the windfarm will be ‘destroying’ is blanket bog that is presently degrading, in some places very seriously, and therefore contributing carbon to the atmosphere and Climate Change. Within the planning application and permission granted are plans to minimize the impact of the development and to restore the degraded areas. The pay-back period for carbon loss for this project is one year! There is only one bird species that the government conservation advisor still has great concerns over and that is the whimbrel.

    In your support to SS you fail to make any comparison with other forms of non-green energy production, eg coal, oil or nuclear. Nor do I see objection coming from SS or the John Muir Trust to the moving of huge amounts of peat in the present massive construction by Total of a gas processing plant at Sullom. Conservation in Shetland has benefited hugely, financed from the oil port of Sullom, over more than two decades. It is somewhat ironic that those who have benefited in many ways from this, continuing, unsustainable and carbon producing industry without objection, now object to one that is actually sustainable. At exactly the same time, Shetland is losing its seabird populations as Climate Change dramatically affects the availability of their main food source. SS should be supporting an industry that will help to ameliorate those changes.

    There is no evidence that a windfarm will affect tourism, in fact windfarms have become visitor attractions! Shetland will gain a reputation as a ‘green’ island entirely energized by sustainable energy.

    Finally, I would point out to you that this project has enormous potential to boost further development of sustainable energy sources in Shetland, such as wave power and tidal power. These developments could play a large part in providing green energy for Scotland and the UK as a whole as well as providing a secure income for Shetland, as oil and gas run out, for many years to come.

    It is sad that a conservation body such as the John Muir Trust, which has no presence in Shetland, should allow itself to be co-opted by a vocal minority.

    Laughton Johnston

  • John Tulloch

    • June 15th, 2013 16:35

    Laughton Johnston is right, there should have been a comparison with fossil fuel generation so here’s one:

    Longannet (coal) Power Station in Fife isn’t a pretty sight however it can produce 2400MW of power at a load factor about 85%, equivalent to a continuous output of 2040MW and covers an area, I guess, of about a quarter of a square mile.

    The Whitelee Wind Farm near Glasgow is the largest onshore wind farm in Europe whose 215 giant turbines can produce 539MW of power at a load factor of about 25%, equivalent to a continuous output of 135MW and it covers about 80sq km, say, 35 sq miles of land.

    This means that to replace the energy output from Longannet you would need about fifteen Whitelee Wind Farms i.e. 3225 turbines (110m high to blade tips), occupying 525 sq miles of land enough, almost, to cover the entire surface of Shetland (c.570 sq miles).

    Alas, even if you covered the whole of Shetland with wind turbines, you’d still need Longannet or its equivalent in gas power stations for when there isn’t any wind. Enough said.

  • ian tinkler

    • June 16th, 2013 17:41

    With regard to my previous, I find it almost evidential that the only people resisting an open, honest and independent enquiry are VE, SSE, the Pro Viking lobby and their supporters in the SIC. Funny is it not, the very same people resisted a public referendum on the VE project; Just what are they afraid of, the truth perhaps?

  • Linda Tait

    • June 17th, 2013 8:33

    Sorry, but I have to take issue with some of Laughton Johnson’s points in his comment above.

    “the project was democratically approved by Shetland Islands Council on behalf of Shetland” – not sure what “democratically” means in this context as the people of Shetland have never been formally asked for their opinion, but more importantly I thought the SIC planning department recommended NOT approving it?

    “The pay-back period for carbon loss for this project is one year!” – really? Would anyone care to bet their life savings on that? Last I heard the payback period was still a matter of debate with quite a wide range of opinion on it.

    “There is no evidence that a windfarm will affect tourism, in fact windfarms have become visitor attractions!” Who in their right mind is going to spend hundreds (or even thousands) of pounds to come all the way to Shetland to see a windfarm? Tourists come to Shetland for precisely the opposite reason – because the landscape is unspoiled and beautiful, they can spend time watching wildlife undisturbed, or just soak up the peace & quiet that is an increasing rarity in the modern world.

    “Shetland will gain a reputation as a ‘green’ island entirely energized by sustainable energy.” – it’s a green island at the moment, but that won’t be the case once the land has been dug up for quarries, roads and turbines! Shetland will never be entirely energised by wind, because wind is not constant and it never will be.

    The only reputation Shetland will gain will be as a community that is avaricious enough to be seduced by the promise of riches, and hypocritical/stupid enough to claim environmental good whilst destroying a pristine wilderness.

  • Johan Adamson

    • June 17th, 2013 10:10

    Well said Linda

    Wide open, unspoilt areas are becoming more precious in their rarity and need to be protected. This is surely what the John Muir Trust exists to do. I urge everyone to join.

    It is an unfair fight with the SIC, SCT and SSE and the government all backing Viking with finance at their disposal.

  • rosa steppanova

    • June 17th, 2013 10:11

    2736 objections were submitted to the Energy Consent Unit and 1114 expressions of support – a clear majority against the project.

    Shetland Island Council organised a string of windfarm consultative meetings in a variety of locations. At each one (show of hands) there was a clear majority against, averaging 75% opposition to the project.

    The Shetland Times carried out a poll amongst its readers which showed a clear majority against the windfarm.

    A second poll, using a different sample, showed equal numbers in favour of/opposing the windfarm.

    After adding up both polls and dividing the results by two, as is correct demoscopic practice, there was still a majority (albeit reduced) against the windfarm.

    In the Shetland context Sustainable Shetland’s membership of over 800 (and growing) is something to be proud of and reflects just how strongly the population feels about the proposed VE windfarm. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that SuS is one of, if not the largest community organisation ever to exist in Shetland.

  • David Spence

    • June 17th, 2013 13:07

    As I keep saying…………..and no doubt most of you will know this…………VE Project. short term gain for it and it’s support (share holders) long term damage to the environment, eco-systems and tourism………and yes, I would go as far as to say ‘ Any share holder in the VE Project are selfish, as they do not consider the long terms implications of their support as long as ‘ they ‘ make money from it for their own selfish monetary/material needs.

    Capitalism is a highly destructive force in our world today, as we can see just now with the effects and damage ‘ they are doing ‘ to the planet regardless as long as they have pounds sign’s flashing in front of them.

    ‘ Oh, I care about the planet and it’s wild life…………but I care more about how much money is in my bank account ‘… the philosophy of your selfish capitalist.

  • Ann Thomson

    • June 17th, 2013 20:24

    The special edition of this magazine (which is downloadable in PDF fomat) may be of interest to your readers and contains informed comment on the Viking Energy project.
    Wild Land News special issue: wind farms gone wild.

  • James Mackenzie

    • June 17th, 2013 23:00

    In response to Laughton’s comments about the condition of blanket bog in Shetland, the extent of “degraded” bog is open to question. Some peatland experts regard erosion of vegetated surfaces as part of a natural succession. Others point out the (sometimes obvious) effects of overgrazing by sheep.
    I still do not understand how interfering with the unique ecology and hydrology of blanket bog, by building huge roads (10m and 6m wide) with associated drainage, cable tracks, vast concrete turbine bases by the hundred (103), excavating quarries up to 2 hectares in size, etc. etc., can be offset by a habitat management plan that SNH and others are not convinced will be effective.
    The Scottish Government has recently announced funding initiatives for restoring degraded blanket bog. These do not require destroying what’s left of it in the first place.

  • Douglas Tott

    • August 12th, 2014 17:33

    Viking Energy would not be keen to construct a wind farm on Shetland if they were not receiving handouts from the Scottish Government.
    Alex Salmond has stated that he wants 100% electricity to be produced in Scotland from renewables by 2020 yet his Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has granted the Torness and Hunterston B nuclear power stations a 7 year extension from 2016 to 2023 to produce nuclear electricity in Scotland.
    Fergus Ewing has recently stated that he would not object to theTorness and Hunterston B nuclear power stations being granted a further 7 year extension from 2023 to 2030.
    In 2020 Alex Samond if he is still the First Minister of Scotland will probably claim that electricity produced by nuclear power stations counts as renewable electricity.


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