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Anti-windfarm group appeals for legal fund

Sustainable Shetland is looking to raise over £30,000 to contest the Scottish government and Viking Energy appeal against Lady Clark’s ruling that overturned consent for the controversial windfarm.

But the anti-windfarm group will only be contesting the appeal on the whimbrel issue as it cannot afford to challenge the appeal against the licensing judgement.

Judicial review judge Lady Clark ruled last month that Scottish government ministers had failed to take account of their obligations under the EU Wild Birds Directive in relation to the impact of the windfarm on the population of the whimbrel, a wading bird. She also ruled that consent for the project was “incompetent” because the Viking Energy Partnership did not have a licence to generate electricity.

Sustainable Shetland chairman Frank Hay said today that the appeal, due to be held at the end of February, is scheduled for six days after a two-day judicial review of documents.

A House of Lords’ bid to amend the 1989 Electricity Act to allow developers in Scotland to apply for windfarm consent without a generating licence stalled last week after it failed to win support from the peers.

Mr Hay said that Sustainable Shetland would be seeking a protected costs order of £30,000. That means the Scottish government will pay that figure if it loses the court battle. Legal proceedings have already cost Sustainable Shetland “over £60,000” for 14 days’ legal representation at a “restricted fee”.

Mr Hay added: “We are pleased to announce that we are able to meet the costs of the judicial review to date, which lasted for 14 days instead of the four originally set for it in court.

“We are able to do so because of the great generosity and determination of our members and supporters.

“We wish, however, to appeal to the wider community for support in our action. The cost to our members has been great. Many people petitioned Shetland Islands Council against the windfarm development and sent objections to the Energy Consents Unit. We are also aware of groups around the UK who have concerns about the proliferation of wind turbines. We would be grateful for any financial support.”

He pointed out that Viking Energy’s costs would be “significantly higher than ours” as they had a larger legal team, while Sustainable Shetland had the “minimum” necessary representation.

Appeals have been lodged by both the ministers and Viking Energy Partnership, and are to be heard at the end of February in the Inner House of the Court of Session. They are appealing both against the licence and competency ruling, and against the European Wild Birds Directive ruling.

A procedural hearing to decide the format of the appeals will take place later this month. Meanwhile Sustainable Shetland will be keeping a “watching brief” on the competency issue.