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Devolution issue delays Viking hearing

Parliament House, seat of the Edinburgh Court of Session

THE LEGAL challenge to the Scottish government’s consent for the controversial Viking Energy wind farm in Shetland has been delayed.

Campaign group Sustainable Shetland’s judicial review in the Edinburgh Court of Session, which began on Tuesday, was due to conclude this week, but now is likely to be held up for weeks if not months.

Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC

The group’s QC Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw argued that Scottish energy minister Fergus Ewing had failed to show they had taken account of the European birds directive when he granted permission for the 103 turbine development last April.

He said that insufficient consideration had been given to the threat the wind farm posed to whimbrel, a protected species of migratory wading bird whose UK population breeds almost exclusively in Shetland.

Malcolm Thomson QC

On Wednesday afternoon the hearing was adjourned after the Scottish government’s QC Malcolm Thomson said this argument raised a “devolution issue”.

Thompson said that as the UK rather than Scotland was a member of the European Union, the UK government should be invited to join the proceedings.

The hearing, which was due to conclude on Friday, will now reconvene that day to discuss the matter further and set a date for proceedings to continue later this year.

Sustainable Shetland’s petition to the court is to be sent to the Advocate General, who advises the UK government on Scottish law.

The Advocate General happens to be former northern isles MP and Orkney MSP Jim Wallace, now Lord Wallace of Tankerness.

The petition will also go to Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland, who advises Scottish ministers on devolution issues.

The hold up will add legal expenses for both sides, while generating further uncertainty over the Viking Energy project.

Sustainable Shetland hope that judge Lady Clark of Calton will call for a full public inquiry into the wind farm.

The Scottish government said no such inquiry was necessary after Shetland Islands Council failed to raise any objection to the development.

Joint developers Shetland Charitable Trust expect to earn around £23 million a year for the island community if the wind farm is built according to plan.

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