Shetland today lies on the edge of another era, led by yet another industry.
Wind power, for some, represents our best hope for maintaining the lifestyle to which we have now become accustomed. For councillors, certainly, the Viking Energy project is seen as a magic pill – money for nothing – which can allow us to go on just as we are, without the necessity for thought or for change.
What we risk losing now cannot be expressed in numbers – not in pounds, nor in tonnes of CO2 – and so it will be ignored. Many Shetlanders feel a deep sense of betrayal over this project. Initial promises that the wind farm would only go ahead given community support turned out, of course, to be lies. Councillors and other backers had assumed that the public would just roll over and say “yes please” when the millions were mentioned. They simply never accounted for the possibility that money might not buy acquiescence.
And so we move forward awkwardly, dividedly. A decision that will affect the future of every person living on these islands will be taken by someone in Edinburgh, someone whose eye is only on the numbers – the pounds, the tonnes – and not on the place itself, or its people.
History suggests that the interests of industry almost invariably win out over all other interests, and so, barring any last minute surprises, that person in Edinburgh will most likely put a tick in the box that will change our hills forever. The gut reaction that many felt when they first digested the details of this project –- that untranslatable sense of attachment to the land, and of revulsion at its proposed disfigurement – will turn then to a knot in the stomach.
But no matter which way the decision goes, there will be many who believe adamantly and sincerely that it has gone the wrong way. The division of this community will perhaps be Viking Energy’s most malignant legacy, and it is a legacy that money cannot begin to overcome. The community will have to do that work itself.
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