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Letters / Recipe for more division

I was present at the “consultation” presentation given by Viking Energy’s consultants (which the Shetland public are paying for) at Bixter Hall this evening, and frankly I was appalled.

First, the subject of lethal (Hooded) Crow control. In spite of Viking Energy’s Addendum admitting that “ a better understanding of whimbrel ecology is necessary in order to develop and implement site-specific management prescriptions”, we were informed that Crow control measures will go ahead, even outwith the Habitat Management Plan (HMP) areas – ostensibly to discourage Whimbrels to breed within the windfarm area. Quite why similar measures within the windfarm area are also going to go ahead, presumably to encourage breeding, was not explained.

These measures will require the consent of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), according to the Scottish Ministers’ consent. I was told that if SNH did not agree to them, based on new data provided by environmental consultants, then the windfarm would not go ahead. So in that case the HMP, and crow control measures, will not go ahead – in spite of us being informed on posters that they will.

Secondly, Viking Energy also intends to “restore” blanket bog by blocking large eroded gullies – which is probably a recipe for disaster, given the propensity for sudden flash floods; and by enlarging lochans to encourage Red Throated Diver breeding, which implies unspecified machinery interference with the habitat.

Thirdly, crofting law now includes “energy generation” as a reasonable purpose for development schemes on common grazings, without specifying the scale of it, whereas other reasonable purposes are such as building a kirk, a community hall, or a peat hill track, or other similar small scale developments.

According to this law, the “crofting community” only includes crofters who have common grazing rights on affected land – not other members of the community who live in the area and (among others) have rights of access to that land for recreational or other purposes.

This is a recipe for even more division in the Shetland community than has been demonstrated already – especially, as I understand, that a mere 350 crofters stand to share £4 million per year in compensation.

But as one crofter in the affected area said to me after the event: “They can take their money and stuff it up their backsides.”

Thank God for people like that.

James Mackenzie
The Lea

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021