The construction of a controversial 103-turbine wind farm in Shetland looks set to become a reality after the highest Scottish court ruled in the government’s favour.
Last September grassroots protest group Sustainable Shetland won its legal challenge against the Scottish Government after Lady Clark of Calton ruled its decision to grant planning consent for the Viking Energy project was incompetent.
She said the developer had not paid enough regard to the European Birds Directive in relation to the impact the project would have on the whimbrel, a rare wading bird.
But on Wednesday the Inner House of the Court of Session upheld Scottish ministers’ appeal against Lady Clark’s ruling – clearing the way for the project to go ahead more than two years after planning consent was granted.
Lord Brodie delivered the Inner House’s verdict that ministers acted lawfully in granting the project consent and that there was no breach of the birds directive.
Developer Viking Energy said it was “pleased” that energy minister Fergus Ewing’s decision in April 2012 “has been vindicated today and we can now move on”.
Viking Energy Shetland chairman Alan Bryce said: “We believed the consent decision would stand up to the closest scrutiny and this outcome validates our position that this project can benefit the local and wider environment.
“The potential for substantial economic and environmental benefits for Shetland means that Viking Energy is in this for the long haul and we continue to look forward to advancing our plans to build what could become the world’s most productive wind farm and a crown jewel of Shetland’s economy.”
But the decision will come as a bitter disappointment to members of Sustainable Shetland, who raised a six-figure sum in order to take their fight to stop the wind farm going ahead to the highest court in Scotland.
The Scottish Government is likely to welcome the news as a boost to its aspiration to turn the country into the green energy powerhouse of Europe.
The construction of a £600 million cable connecting Shetland to the UK National Grid was always said to be dependent on whether the 457 megawatt Viking Energy project goes ahead.
More to follow
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