Scotland’s most senior court has delivered an overwhelming verdict in favour of the Viking Energy windfarm that could hasten the building of 103 massive turbines in central Shetland.
The ruling by three senior judges in favour of the Scottish Ministers’ motion and against that of objectors Sustainable Shetland clears a major hurdle facing the joint venture between the “Shetland community” and the power company SSE, which could provide enough electricity to power 350-,000 homes.
Lord Brodie delivered the opinion of The Inner House of the Court of Session that means the consent application was competent, that Scottish ministers acted lawfully in issuing the decision letter and there was no breach of the EU Birds Directive.
Viking Energy Shetland chairman Alan Bryce said: “We are pleased that the judges have found in favour of Scottish ministers, who awarded consent to build the wind farm more than two years ago. Their decision has been vindicated today and we can now move on.
“We believed the consent decision would stand up to the closest scrutiny and this outcome validates our position that this project can benefit the local and wider environment.
“The potential for substantial economic and environmental benefits for Shetland means that Viking Energy is in this for the long haul and we continue to look forward to advancing our plans to build what could become the world’s most productive wind farm and a crown jewel of Shetland’s economy.”
Spokesman for Sustainable Shetland (SuS) James MacKenzie said: “We are obviously disappointed that the judges have upheld the ministers appeal. We still think the Lady Clark’s opinion was justified, but we will have to read the decision carefully and discuss with our legal team before we can see what the arguments are.
“It has been a long and arduous process and I would like to say that the support from members and supporters has been quite inspiring and humbling .”
Mr MacKenzie said that the windfarm “still had quite a lot of obstacles” to overcome and SuS would only decide how to procede after discussions with legal advisors and the organisation’s membership. He could not say if SuS, which has paid for its lawyers through public donations, had enough money to continue the legal fight or if there would be a further fundraising drive.
The judgement by Lords Menzies, Brodie and Lord President Gill strongly contradicts last year’s decision of Lady Clark who found against the development on grounds that the Scottish ministers decision to grant planning permission was incompetent as the windfarm did not have a generating licence and had not taken adequate heed of the wild birds directive.
According to the judges, Lady Clark had been “diverted” by calls from Sustainable Shetland for a public inquiry and failed to focus on the key question of “whether the grant of consent by the Scottish Ministers had been a lawful decision” taking into account its effects on the whimbrel. It very clearly was, they found.
The judgment also makes it clear that the granting of consent for the windfarm by the Scottish Government was not contingent upon the development having an operating licence, which Lady Clark had given as the reason for overturning the consent.
The judges’ disposal at the end of their judgment reads: “We will accordingly allow the reclaiming motion at the instance of the Scottish Ministers, recall the interlocutor of the Lord Ordinary, refuse the cross-appeal at the instance of Sustainable Shetland, and dismiss the petition.”
Sustainable Shetland or other objectors have 42 days to appeal to the Supreme Court in London against the judgment.