Growing calls for Shetland to capitalise on ‘green recovery’

Renewed calls have been made to push forward with a “green recovery” out of the Covid-19 crisis – with Shetland said to be ideally situated to capitalise. 

Pressure is growing on the Scottish and UK governments to put green jobs and tackling the climate emergency at the heart of its recovery plan. 

Earlier this week, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, published its plan for a green recovery – calling to kick start the economy, create new jobs and fuel “clean growth”.

And in Shetland, campaigners took part in Tuesday’s nationwide “Virtual Mass Lobby”, organised by the Climate Coalition, which saw them call on politicians to make changes for the better. 

Councillors also agreed on Wednesday to progress plans for the Shetland Energy Hub, which would aim to make clean energy for local consumption and export. 

Although campaigners at Sustainable Shetland, and others, have highlighted concerns about the possible “industrialisation of the landscape”, the SIC’s project lead Douglas Irvine said the scheme could generate £5 billion annually for the region, and create 1,750 jobs. 

The project would require significant investment from the energy industry and government.

But with increased focus on the green economy, pockets of funding are beginning to emerge. 

Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced £5.5 million was being made available for renewables projects to contribute towards a green recovery. 

Energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said the investment would “push forward renewables projects that will help to rebuild the economy”.

Tom Wills, a renewable energy expert and Shetland’s SNP convener has also been pushing the case for the green economy. 

He said: “Shetland can and should be self-sufficient in renewable energy and it is essential that we use this crisis as an opportunity to move to a more sustainable economic model.

“A major interconnector to the mainland is essential for Shetland to realise its full potential as a renewable energy exporter, but we also need to build resilience by supplying the local market and using electricity more for transport and heating. 

“Properly insulating all the homes in Shetland and building more district heating schemes would create work in the short term and makes economic sense in the long term. The same goes for our long overdue investments in fixed links.

“Investing more of Shetland’s reserves in local green projects that can provide a return would bring economic benefits and isolate us more from the volatility of financial markets. 

“We need a green recovery plan for Shetland that identifies what is achievable with existing resources – and what our priorities should be as more funds become available.

“It is already clear that recovering from this unprecedented recession will require an unprecedented economic stimulus. From the furlough scheme, to major infrastructure projects, to the government taking equity stakes in major companies: the cash is now being found, just as it was for the Iraq war and the bank bailouts.

“The UK government needs to learn from mistakes like privatising North Sea oil and gas and its 2008 crash response, to ensure that our resources are harnessed for the public good and that the power of central government is used to put money in the pockets of people who will spend it in the real economy. 

“This also feels like a good time to shake the magic money tree in the Cayman Islands and other UK-linked tax havens, where much of our wealth is sequestered. We may struggle to fund a green recovery otherwise.”

A previous version of this story, which appeared in print, cut part of Mr Wills’ quote which indicated he was referring to Shetland’s “magic money tree”. This was a misrepresentation of Mr Wills’ comment, which appears in full here. We apologise for the mistake. 

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