Feathers fly in Shetland wind farm development row

Shetland is where 95 per cent of the British whimbrel population flock to breed. Picture: Getty
Shetland is where 95 per cent of the British whimbrel population flock to breed. Picture: Getty
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A RARE bird has landed at the heart of a legal challenge involving the Scottish Government’s decision to grant the go-ahead for a wind farm project.

Campaigners maintain that there was a breach of a European Birds Directive in the approval for the Viking wind farm on Shetland.

Sustainable Shetland has raised a judicial review at the Court of Session in Edinburgh of the Scottish ministers’ ruling last year granting consent for the 103-turbine project .

Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw QC, for the group, told the court yesterday: “One of the main legal contentions is how the Scottish Government has approached the Birds Directive and we say that is an error of law.”

Protesters are seeking to have the decision set aside and maintain that a public inquiry should have been held and that the ministers failed to properly take account of the impact of the development on the whimbrel, a migratory wading bird.

The court heard that 95 per cent of the British population of whimbrels breed on Shetland.

Sir Crispin said: “Shetland holds a substantial portion of the British population, but it has been in decline in numbers.”

The Viking project was hailed by energy minister Fergus Ewing as providing enormous benefits to the people of Shetland.

Sir Crispin told Lady Clark of Calton that Shetland islands council head of planning had recommended refusal of the project as it was contrary to a development plan, but the council decided not to oppose the application.

He said: “It is a judgement that has to be made against the background that energy does not trump environment.”

The counsel said Scottish Natural Heritage had objected to the project maintaining there was a high likelihood of a significant adverse impact on the wader.