Letters / The law of unintended consequences

I was fascinated to read Friday’s article on Change of Viking Energy ownership had no impact on land leases.

Change of Viking Energy ownership had no impact on land leases

Tucked away at the end of the article was reference to a report presented to the council in a December 2010 meeting. Councillors were told to expect £38.2 million per annum in benefit for Shetland, and £23 million per annum for Shetland Charitable Trust.

The report appears to have been prepared by Neil Grant, who now holds a senior position in Shetland Islands Council. I do not intend to impugn Mr Grant in any way. I am sure he did not simply pluck these estimates from thin air. He must have had input from SSE or outside consultants.

However, these estimates were believed by the councillors of that time and their enthusiasm for the project at the time is understandable, although perhaps naive, with the benefit of hindsight.


I do hope that some councillors called for detailed risk analysis and stress testing of the figures, assuming different scenarios.

In any case, they pursued the illusory pot of gold and closed their minds to the possibility of writing off the investment and exiting the partnership, despite the fact that the pot of gold was obviously becoming smaller and smaller over time.

Ten years on, not a single turbine has yet been built, but we cannot wriggle out of this nightmare because of the legal agreement with SSE.

We now know that the community benefit fund will probably receive £2.2 million per annum, rather than the £38.2 million predicted.

I am absolutely certain that the councillors of the time would never have seriously considered the project if they had known that the return would be so tiny, and the potential long-term damage to Shetland, and to their personal reputations, so great.

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However, this is where The Law of Unintended Consequences shows itself, because we are mistakenly committed to Viking Energy, we appear to be committed to a strategy that puts onshore wind farms at its core.

2020 is when history repeats itself, with an Energy Hub strategy paper being prepared by another Shetland Islands Council employee.

Councillors appear to have decided that this strategy is right, without any risk analysis and stress testing. Please do not ignore the lessons of history, and do not ignore the mistakes of your predecessors. The consequences of doing so would be disastrous for Shetland.

Please treat every proposition that is put you like a potential bomb, which could blow up in your face and destroy your personal reputation in the future.

I am not remotely anti wind farms. I was a director of NYDC, which built the very successful community-owned wind farm in Yell.

I am simply terrified that the beauty of Shetland will be destroyed forever, and its tourism business destroyed with it, for the sake of a handful of beads from major power companies.

Alan Skinner

Note: the 2010 report can be found here.

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