A battle for the hearts and minds of the new Shetland Charitable Trust over the controversial Viking Energy wind farm has begun.
Anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland has sent an open letter to all 24 prospective trustees urging caution over investing a further £6.3 million into the project, which received planning permission six weeks ago.
Meanwhile the pro-Viking Windfarm Supporters Group is inviting businesses throughout Shetland to sign up to a letter calling for the trust to back the 103 turbine development.
Last month the trust made three unsuccessful attempts to hold a meeting to agree the investment in the wind farm in which they have a 45 per cent share, alongside Scottish & Southern Energy and a group of local businessmen.
Valuation consultants Quayle Munro have said planning permission increased the value of the trust’s current investment of £3.42 million to around £60 million, and approving the extra cash would increase it further to £140 million.
In his letter to the new trustees being appointed after their election to Shetland Islands Council 11 days ago, Sustainable Shetland chairman Andrew Halcrow questioned whether any decision on Viking should be made before they had been given time to understand the details of the wind farm project.
He even suggested they should wait until the trust had completed it current reorganisation to address “systemic conflicts of interest” and remove council control.
He also called for further community consultation, saying it may be inappropriate to invest money in a project that may benefit Shetland financially but would “significantly damage the quality of life for many members of that community”.
Meanwhile the Windfarm Supporters Group has been busy handing out a short letter to local businesses, which they too wish to send to the trust urging them to back Viking.
Their proposed letter says people have to “face facts”, and that having received planning permission the wind farm will be built with or without the charitable trust.
Backing out now, the letter says, would mean “throwing away any control over the development and see the potential profits lost to the community along with the increasing number of young people who will leave to look for work”.
Supporters’ group member Richard Gibson said they had drawn up the letter because they felt it was important to get the views of Shetland’s “wealth creators” across to the trustees.
One Lerwick businessman, however, said he was not happy signing the letter on behalf of his business as he employed around 20 people who disagreed on the issue.
“We can’t say we are for or against it when different people have different views,” he said.
The new charitable trust meets for the first time on 24 May when the only item of business is expected to be choosing office bearers.
Sustainable Shetland claims to have 826 members opposing the wind farm, while the Windfarm Supporters’ Group says it has received around 600 messages of support for Viking Energy.
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