Members of environmental groups were left angry and disappointed by the decision to grant permission for the Viking windfarm.
The John Muir Trust said it made little sense to dig up peatlands, which were a cost-effective means of mitigating the effects of global warming. Trust chief executive Stuart Brooks said the decision sent a “clear signal that any wild landscape is vulnerable to industrialisation on a massive scale”.
He added: “This is quite possibly the largest industrial development history of Shetland.
“The scale of impact on the world-renowned natural landscape of these islands is unimaginable.”
The RSPB said the size of the development had been reduced but it should have been made even smaller to reduce the risk of harm to rare species including whimbrel and red-throated divers. Aedan Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said ministers should have done more to minimise any “negative consequences”, although the development would make a “welcome contribution” to meeting renewable energy targets.
“It is now absolutely critical that this development includes significant long-term investment in research and habitat enhancement to make sure that the negative impacts on Shetland’s wildlife can be both offset and significantly reduced,” he said.
Lyndsey Ward, a member of the Druim Ba Says No group, which is fighting plans to put up 23 turbines on a low, forested hillside near the Inverness-shire village of Kiltarlity, said the approval was “very worrying”. She said: “It makes you wonder what kind of criteria a development would need for it to be stopped. It seems at the moment anything goes.
“We are continually told that the planning process is robust and is in place to help protect people and the environment, but we are just not seeing that happen.”
[also published as “Viking decision sails into a sea of fury in Shetland”]