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Letters / The difference between reinstatement and restoration

There are lies, damned lies…and then there’s the latest Viking Energy newsletter.

Having acknowledged that peatland restoration in Scotland – and Shetland – is funded by the government’s Peatland Action Plan, the newsletter then blithely informs us that without VE/SSE’s “access and resources, the ongoing loss of carbon to the atmosphere [caused by eroding peat] would continue unaddressed.”

An example of this apparently necessary access is illustrated in an aerial photograph of the Mid Kame, with a massive turbine base and crane pad, of which there will be 103 across the windfarm, and a track, of which there will be 69 kilometres, supplied with aggregate from “borrow pits” up to 2 hectares in size, which have been blasted out of the moor.

Another photograph of the Mid Kame is captioned: “A fine example of Peatland restoration…” It’s not clear from the photo exactly what has been done, but it looks as if raw peat has been spread over an area adjacent to construction works.

According to the text, excavated peat is “transported to the Peatland Restoration Areas where it is laid out as dug [sic] and profiled so as to be in keeping with the surrounding natural levels.”

We are told such areas are to be reseeded, with locally sourced grass seed. My enquiries to VE/SSE as to what the seed mix comprises have been met with silence.

In 2022, the newsletter tells us, “peat restoration initiatives which are a core part of VEWF’s approved Habitat Management Plan (HMP) will continue.”

The approved HMP however does not, as far as I can see, include the above measures as means of restoration.

“A fine example” of peat spreading and reseeding can be seen by passers-by on the B9071 at Sandwater, where verges and banks of the new road have been “reinstated”.

The peat is cracked from drying out and the grass is, unsurprisingly, extremely patchy. Turves which could have been used to surface the peat remain piled up higgledy-piggledy, with their vegetation dead or dying.

Reinstatement is not the same as restoration. And restoration, which is being effectively carried out by other agencies elsewhere in Shetland, is not what is going on here.

I fear quite the opposite is taking place, as was forewarned by opponents of the wind farm and by peatland ecologists.

James Mackenzie