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Council / Councillor calls for more local control over decision-making on projects like Viking Energy

Councillor Duncan Anderson. Photo: Shetland News

A COUNCILLOR believes that even if the Viking Energy wind farm was rejected locally then the Scottish Government could have overturned the decision – something which he calls an “utter deficit of democracy”.

Duncan Anderson, who represents the North Isles, said it has “always been my view that we must have meaningful local control over matters such as these”.

With the Viking Energy construction programme set to begin this month, the opposition against the 103-turbine development has intensified in recent months.

Anderson has written a letter to local media to explain his position on the controversial wind farm.

My views on Viking Energy

He said “in the short time I have been a local politician I have received many concerns, opinions or even attacks regarding Viking Energy”.

“I am currently thirty years old; I was at school when this project was first discussed publicly and at college when it was approved by the council,” Anderson continued.

“My view has always been that projects of this magnitude should be decided by the Shetland public, via referendum if necessary (as was in my 2017 manifesto).

“Our elected representatives in 2010 had the authority to make the decisions they did and, despite what is said locally by some, I do not doubt for a second that they made those decisions with the community of Shetland’s interests in the forefront of their minds.”

Anderson conceded it is not an easy job being a councillor, particularly in a small island community.

“What I have encountered, in my short time representing my ward, is people full of a desire to better the place they call home,” he said.

“A far cry from what you may read in the comments sections on social media.

“The project is now underway and is happening whether we like it or not.

“It remains unclear what percentage of Shetlanders are opposed or supportive of the project that is now going to impact all of us. What is clear is that there is significant opposition.”

The Whalsay councillor said it was “galling” that he feels that “had successive councils, and even the public, rejected this project there is still nothing we could have done to stop it”.

“Holyrood have the power to overturn council decisions in matters such as these, as we have seen locally with the Sella Ness accommodation site,” Anderson said.

He also pointed to two instances where wind farm projects in Orkney had been approved by the Scottish Government despite being rejected locally by their council.

“This, to my mind, is an utter deficit of democracy. All too often the council must deal with the flak caused by decisions and regulations made by people in Edinburgh, Westminster or even Brussels who will very likely never set foot in these islands we call home.

“To all the Shetlanders who feel aggrieved by this project I truly sympathise with you. I would encourage you though, not to direct any rage you feel towards people who had no part in the situation we are now in.

“I hope this unfortunate source of community strife can perhaps encourage people to look further than just blaming the council for everything. It has always been my view that we must have meaningful local control over matters such as these.

“Centralised control of resources and regulations to hundreds of miles away is not serving the people of Shetland in an acceptable manner.”