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Letters / SIC lobbied relentlessly for Viking

A notion being circulated by councillors is that the present council bears no responsibility for the impending environmental disaster that is Viking Energy and its progeny of smaller developments. That it is entirely the fault of Holyrood and Westminster and would have been averted if Shetland had control of its own affairs.

I was pleased to see councillor Anderson making a case for greater local autonomy. Issues such as the planning system and manifestly unfair treatment over annual government funding, internal and external transport, fixed links, etc., are fertile ground for argument.

My views on Viking Energy

However, it is simply not viable to claim that this council has been and is unable to prevent industrial renewable energy development. Quite the reverse; it has lobbied relentlessly for it.

The argument falls down because council policy has been aimed at facilitating exactly such incongruous developments as those in question.

For years, the SIC has lobbied for a high capacity grid interconnector, without which vast renewable energy projects would be impossible. They objected publicly and vociferously (2017) to a 60MW subsea link, protesting that it could not export energy and was not big enough for the developments they wished to see. Their submission stated:

“…the 60 MW link appears primarily designed for power to flow north to Shetland, rather than……harness the world-class…(renewable energy)… potential of Shetland”.

That happened on this council’s watch.

The policy remains unchanged and the SIC’s submission to the recent Ofgem consultation stated:

“Shetland Islands Council supports….a 600MW cable. The economic importance of …(this link)… is considered to be of great importance to Shetland. The…600MW transmission link is scaled to meet…564.8MW of consented remote island wind…(plus)…120-200MW…in the planning phase.”

That happened on this council’s watch.

Recently, the council agreed to pursue an even more extraordinary objective; to construct a 10GW “energy hub” – 22 Viking Energy’s worth of renewable energy, connected to oil rigs via a cobweb of subsea cables. Without the 600MW interconnector it would not get off the ground.

That happened on this council’s watch.

Then there is the business of land ownership. The SIC owns the Busta Estate which will host a significant number of Viking Energy wind turbines. Having been involved helping a small community hydro project in Argyll I noticed the landowner’s reluctance to sign until every ‘i’ was dotted and ‘t’ crossed. That appears not to have been the case here.

However, I cannot believe that the SIC’s legal experts would not ensure that an escape hatch existed in the event of major changes to the project e.g. the withdrawal of the charitable trust, ending community participation and passing control to the purely commercial SSEN.

It appears the SIC intends to permit use of its land despite reportedly having the legal option to withdraw.

That is also happening on this council’s watch.

So, while a few individual councillors, notably, Ian Scott and Moraig Lyall, can protest their innocence, the SIC, far from being helpless to resist the overwhelming force of remote government policy, is mired, mid-midden, in a political mess of its own making.

John Tulloch
Arrochar

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