Land court concludes Viking hearing

The Scottish Land Court was sitting in the islesburgh Community Centre

A HEARING before the Scottish Land Court into the planned Viking Energy wind farm concluded on Thursday morning.

Four local crofters, Lorna Moncrieff, Kerry Tait, John Anderson and James Cheyne, all objected to the company’s application for consent to built its 103-turbine wind farm on crofting land.

Following three days of hearing evidence and cross-examination before Lord Minginish, including a site visit to the crofts of all four objectors on Wednesday, the land court met for the final time on Thursday morning to hear both sides summing up their cases.

Speaking for the applicant Viking Energy, Marcus McKay QC, said the objectors had simply re-argued many of the points already dealt with in the planning process and the judicial review, and had failed to demonstrate that their crofts would be disproportionally and unjustly disadvantaged by the project.

He said that there could be no suggestion that the crofting community in Aith, or members of that community, were being unfairly treated by comparison to other members of the crofting community within the area affected by the development.

Placing community interests at the very heart of the project was fundamental to the way the project was delivered, he said.

Referring to the evidence Viking project manger Aaron Priest had given to the land court earlier this week, McKay said the project, should it go ahead, would deliver “significant community benefits”.

Speaking on behalf of John Anderson and James Cheyne, James Mackenzie said both men could be described as “sewn into the very fabric of the land”.

Their involvement as crofters extended much further than just financial or coming grazing interests, it was their life and livelihood that they felt that was under threat here.

“That is why they are so concerned and have come to this court to object,” Mackenzie said.

He also questioned whether an industrial scale wind farm proposal could be described as a “reasonable purpose” for development under crofting law.

Aith crofter Lorna Moncrieff said Scottish government policies on renewable energy targets should not be regarded as automatic entitlements for developers. They needed to be tested before the land court on behalf of the crofters.

“Our interest here is trying to get across to the court the vast scale of the project and why we think that it is not fit for purpose in a small land-mass like Shetland,” she said.

The court is expected to deliver its written judgement within the next five weeks.