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Community / Petitioners want councillors to be in charge of community benefit negotiations

Photo: Aker

PLANS by Shetland Islands Council to hand delegated authority to its chief executive Maggie Sandison, or her nominee, to negotiate community benefits from future renewable energy projects are being challenged by a group of islanders.

A petition signed by 29 local people expressing concern at the “massive transfer of powers and responsibilities to non-elected officials” has been received by the council.

The petition will be introduced at the start of a Full Council meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) and considered as part of its decision making relating to the relevant item.

In a report titled Community Benefit and Associated Opportunities Arising From Renewable Energy Generation on and around Shetland directors for infrastructure and development, John Smith and Neil Grant, are asking councillors to grant delegated authority to senior officials to “pursue the council and Shetland interests”.

The petition has been organised by anti-Viking Energy wind farm group Save Shetland, which argued that as “democratically elected” representatives, SIC councillors should take the lead in any such negotiations.

“The request for approval of the above requires a massive transfer of powers and responsibilities to non-elected officials, who will be making decisions which will have far reaching implications for our islands and seas,” the petition said.

One of its instigators, Ernie Ramaker, told Shetland News the signatories were not against engagement with developers of potential projects, but felt those negotiations should be led by councillors.

“Projects like Orion can potentially have a major impact on Shetland, and councillors, who are democratically elected and can be held responsible by the electorate, should be in the lead here,” Ramaker said.

In their report to directors Smith and Grant said moves to coordinate a joint approach with other island authorities were already under way in a bid to secure community benefit from large offshore renewable energy projects.

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They wrote: “It is important to ensure that Shetland priorities, objectives and concerns regarding offshore renewable generation are established in preparation for that potential.

“That will allow Shetland’s interests to be better articulated and promoted at the point where very significant offshore winds are likely to be considered through national processes.

“Is will also allow negotiations to be conducted more effectively should projects be sanctioned around Shetland.”

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