HIGHLANDS and Islands list MSP Jean Urquhart has welcomed the UK Supreme Court’s decision paving the way for Viking Energy to pursue its plans for a 103-turbine wind farm.
The court ruled yesterday that the Scottish Government had acted lawfully in granting planning consent for the controversial and divisive development.
The development had been the subject of a legal challenge by protest group Sustainable Shetland in a long-running saga since consent was granted in 2012.
The case revolved around the project’s impact on the whimbrel, a migratory wading bird 95 per cent of whose population of around 300 pairs resides in Shetland. Supreme Court judges rejected Sustainable Shetland’s case that energy minister Fergus Ewing had failed to “meaningfully engage” with a European birds directive.
Urquhart, a former SNP member who is now serving as an independent MSP, described the ruling as “great news”. She highlighted the prospect of up to £30 million a year in revenue to be spent in the local community and the creation of jobs to build and operate the wind farm.
“Shetland is especially well-suited for wind energy,” she said. “In fact the developers hope Viking will become the most productive onshore wind farm in the world.
“I’m particularly pleased that Viking will be part-owned by a community charitable trust – ideally, all energy projects should have a community stake. Our renewables revolution should be about more than just replacing big oil corporations with big wind farm corporations.
“It is essential now that the Shetland Islands Council makes plans to allow for more local and community involvement in further developments. This decision should provide real opportunities for communities and not open the floodgates to wholly owned commercial companies.”
Urquhart, who is holding a surgery at Islesburgh between 6-7pm on Friday, added: “From energy to land reform, creative use of the new community empowerment bill could see even greater benefits to some of the most vulnerable parts of Shetland.”
While Sustainable Shetland and those sympathetic to its cause were disappointed with the ruling, its chairman Frank Hay saying: “Our opposition to the wind farm – and its dire implications for the Shetland commnuity and environment – remains undiminished”.
But it has been welcomed by the Shetland company working on a potential wind farm project in Unst and Yell.
The Energy Isles project is contingent on a transmission cable being laid to the Scottish mainland, and its chairman Paul Riddell said Viking would open the door to such projects.
“This judgement gives Energy Isles the potential to bring much-needed income and employment to those areas of Shetland like Unst and Yell which are simply not benefiting from the current economic good times,” he said.
He added: “It’s also about looking ahead 20, 30, 40 years and trying to build a future for our children and grandchildren when the world we take for granted today will have changed dramatically.”