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Letters / Our next environmental disaster

Twenty years ago we had an environmental catastrophe when 87,000 tonnes of environmentally toxic crude oil was dumped on the shores of the south mainland by the Braer.

This pollution was unplanned for, sudden and immediately devastating. Although nobody could know or predict this at the time, the severe environmental effects were to be relatively short lived.

Today Shetland stands on the brink of another environmental disaster.

This time the pollution will not be unexpected, sudden and immediate, but slow and inexorably creeping and will last not just for weeks, or months, or, years, or decades, but probably for centuries.

This time the main pollutant will be well over 200,000 tonnes of concrete that will make the turbine bases and other installations for the Viking Energy windfarm.

If the Viking Energy windfarm is built, water run-off carrying leachate from the alkali concrete turbine bases can pollute the acid heather, lochs and grassland.

When the windfarm comes to the end of its very short life, or goes bust (whichever is the sooner), the land won’t be reinstated.

Turbines, pylons and huts above the ground can be removed, but 200,000 tonnes of alkali concrete in the bases will remain to act as 103 unstoppable alkali cancer centres; each spreading outward on the acid environment of central mainland.

The 100km of access roads too will leave permanent scars on our hillsides as will the inevitable, life-threatening peat-slides.

As with the Braer, wildlife will be killed by the Viking Energy windfarm. Health and property will also be affected, this time by noise, shadow flicker and peat-slides.

With the Braer compensation was paid to those affected, but this time the polluter says that they will not be paying compensation.

Pollution potential will not only come from the Viking windfarm but from all the other windfarms with Viking sized turbines and access roads that will have to be built to make any interconnector cable viable.

Wavefarms too are not risk free when it comes to pollution. The proposed large wavefarm to be anchored in the Burra Haaf (with SIC/SCT support) will contain about 1,000 tonnes of environmentally toxic hydraulic oil.

The Braer happened because perceived profit was put ahead of environmental safety and it cost the oil companies a vast sum of money through the compensation fund.

Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Charitable Trust and SSE are now putting a hoped for, unknown and unsubstantiated profit ahead of environmental safety. This time the polluter will not pay because there is no compensation fund.

The SIC’s own planning department and a host of other objectors have clearly demonstrated that the Viking Energy windfarm is not suitable for Shetland and not wanted.

A vote by a minority of SIC councillors prevented a local public inquiry where environmental concerns should have been sorted. The rest failed to represent their constituent’s views by washing their hands of the project by declaring a conflict of interest.

No SIC councillors represented the very real fears of the residents within the proposed windfarm clusters. Councillors past and present have failed and continue to fail these constituents by not supporting a call for a pubic local inquiry and by not asking hard environmental questions of the Viking Energy project.

Our MP and MSP have likewise failed their constituents and failed again by not challenging the SNP’s political decision to grant planning consent.

There will be no worldwide sympathy for Shetland’s next environmental disaster because we have been well warned that it will happen and we will have done it to ourselves.

Allen Fraser