Supreme Court totally rejects appeal against windfarm and supports Scottish Government approval

(9th February 2015)

The Supreme Court has unanimously rejected Sustainable Shetland's appeal against the Scottish Government's permission for the Viking Energy windfarm. 

In the 17-page judgement given this morning the highest court in the UK appeared to have little if any sympathy for the argument of the Viking opponents.

The only slight glimmer of agreement was the court's acceptance that the European Birds Directive was vague in places and might need to be tested in the European Court of Justice in another case on different arguments - but not the case of Viking Energy.

 So the highest courts in Scotland and the UK have strongly supported the planning permission for the windfarm and found nothing wrong in the Scottish government's decision - or in the decision of the SIC.

 The full Supreme Court judgement can be read here

Now, hopefully, plans for the windfarm can go-ahead.  The UK and Scottish Governments are preparing schemes to support a renewable energy industry in the islands and the links to the National Grid by subsea cable.   

Viking will now presumably prepare detailed plans prior to the major decision on financing the project probably sometime next year.

Statement by Chris Bunyan on behalf of the Windfarm Supporters Group (9th February 2015)

The windfarm supporters are delighted with the Supreme Court's unanimous decision to reject the arguments from Sustainable Shetland and refuse permission to take the case to Europe.   The highest courts in Scotland and UK have now both strongly backed the Scottish Government's approval for the windfarm.

The legal actions have resulted in a delay of nearly three years - and a delay in the charitable trust getting new income - and achieved little or nothing except huge bills from lawyers for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

With an end to the legal arguments, the value of the Viking project, even as an undeveloped windfarm, will have soared.  The charitable trust will no doubt take the best professional advice on the economics of the project and whether it should continue with its investment and if so how it can be financed.

The UK and Scottish Governments, both of which back the Viking project, are confident of sorting out issues of connecting the islands to the national grid and supporting a new renewable energy industry in the islands.  

Finally, how long will opponents keep up the divisive campaign ?  When can we all begin to work together for the good of the islands and ensure Shetland gets the best and safest deal possible from the windfarm ? 

An environmental advisory group is proposed for the windfarm - similar to the respected and successful one at Sullom Voe - and I wonder if Sustainable Shetland should be invited to nominate an expert to be part of it.

Some might say let's make the best of a bad deal - we would say let's make the best of a good deal.


Court backs Viking Energy

planning permission

(9th July 2014)

The Scottish Government has won its legal appeal against the Sustainable Shetland objections to the granting of planning permission for the windfarm.  The three Court of Session judges issued their decision today (9th July 2014) and it:

(1) totally rejects the earlier Sustainable Shetland argument and earlier lower court decision that an interpretation of the Energy Act means that a developer needs a license before asking for planning permission.  Viking's planning permission was revoked by the lower court on this decision.  

The Court of Session said that applications for planning permission and an operating license are two totally different things.    The earlier lower court decision was rejected by the three judges and even the independent lawyer appointed by the court to present the facts of this issue said he couldn't support the argument.   

(2) The Court of Session has also completely rejected the lower court decision that Scottish Ministers had not properly considered the European Birds Directive and the effects of the windfarm on whimbrels. 

The basis for this earlier decision was "misplaced" - there was plenty of evidence in the minister's decision letter that they had considered all the relevant evidence and submissions and were entitled to form an opinion having regard to the submissions and all environmental legislation.  There was "ample evidence" to justify the ministers granting permission having considered arguments about the possible effects on whimbrels.

The Viking Energy windfarm has planning permission and has now survived intact from two lengthy legal challenges which have caused two years delay.   Sustainable Shetland, the organisation trying to stop the windfarm and cable to the National Grid, now has 42 days to decide whether to try and carry on its legal fight and go to the UK Supreme Court - another lengthy and expensive legal process.  

But why are trying to stop a new renewable energy industry in the islands. Why are they opposing a cable to the National Grid which would allow not only Viking to go-ahead but the Energy Isles project in Yell and Unst and other projects like the possible wave farm of the south mainland and even tidal machines linked to bridges.

The Scottish and UK Governments are urgently working to get a cable linking Shetland to the National Grid.   It is going to happen.  Either the local community is going to benefit from the charitable trust shares in Viking Energy or lose the opportunity and then we'll see the money going to south companies.   Is that really what the windfarm opponents want ?

Chris Bunyan, on behalf of the Windfarm Supporters Group, 9th July 2014


Viking Windfarm Approved

(Wed 4/4/12)

The Scottish Government has approved the Viking windfarm.   Minister Fergus Ewing reduced the size of the project from 127 turbines to 103 because of problems with the radar system at Scatsta airport.   Mr Ewing commented:

“This windfarm will bring enormous benefits to the people of Shetland, generating more than £30 million annual income for the entire Shetland community. Around £20 million of that will go directly to the Shetland Charitable Trust.

“The development will create jobs and bring income, and makes the case for an interconnector to connect Shetland for the first time to the National Grid – paving the way for more exports and further renewable energy opportunities for the Islands, including community projects and marine energy developments.

“The development includes an extensive habitat management plan covering around 12,800 acres, which will restore peatland and offer benefits to a whole range of species and habitats.”

The Windfarm Supporters are delighted with the news that Viking Energy has been approved. This opens a whole new era, there should be exciting times ahead with a new renewable energy industry for Shetland that has enormous potential.

We were expecting a reduction in the number of turbines, but with advances in technology and more efficient turbines this may not mean much of a reduction in production.

This is going to be a huge project and there's plenty of things still to be sorted. In many ways the real work only starts now. We know there will be people who are disappointed with the Government's approval, but we hope that now we can all begin moving forward and work together to ensure the windfarm goes ahead as smoothly as possible for the benefit of Shetland and with the least harm to the environment.

Of course there's going to be problems, there's always problems with any major development, and there's going to be disruption while it is built, but if we all work together we can ensure lessons are learnt and we not only protect Shetland's environment but also ensure we get the best possible deal.

That deal must include the developers agreeing a realistic community benefit scheme with our community councils that reflects the much higher levels of production and profitability expected in the islands compared to the south.

Make no mistake, this decision and all the developments that will follow in the years to come can be as important as the coming of oil, perhaps even more so in this time of financial cutbacks and hardships.

We must now ensure the interconnector cable gets approval - although it would be sensible to lay two cables while there's a cable laying operation underway as that would allow for future developments and cut the cost of having to go back and lay another cable in five or 10 years time.

Shetland - the windswept isles

For the past 40 years Shetland has played a major role in helping the UK meet its energy requirements through the Sullom Voe terminal and now the new Total gas plant.  But times have changed and we have all become aware of the effects that burning fossil fuels have on the environment.

Climate change is the biggest threat the islands face.   It is already changing our islands.   Our seas are changing.  Our environment is being affected.  Seabirds and other wildlife are suffering.

Shetland can play its part in trying to contain climate change by reducing its consumption and saving energy.   But we can also use our unique resources.

The Shetland climate is incomparable when it comes to wind energy.  There are five commercial wind turbines on Shetland and they are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best producing wind turbines in the world - generating twice as much as average turbines elsewhere.

A large windfarm is proposed for Shetland to harness that natural power and supply electricity to Scotland.  It is partly owned by the local community and offers great opportunities for Shetland.

The project is, of necessity, large - and that is a source of great debate.  We hope this website will answer your questions and persuade you to support the proposals.

(Unless stated otherwise, all the information on this website is based on information before Viking Energy published its revised plans - and before the project was approved in April 2012)

The website is provided by the Windfarm Supporters Group.  

(Last changes 10/07/14)