Press release 11/03/09

Sustainable Shetland
Press release - for immediate use

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Campaigners ask local authority to stop paying wind farm project bills

Campaign group Sustainable Shetland has today written to Shetland Islands Council Audit and Scrutiny Committee asking that they cease payments for wind farm company Viking Energy Ltd, and that they recover £1.74m already spent on behalf of the company.

The company, which the council sold in September 2007, has continued to have all its costs met by money from the local authority, despite the council having no financial stake in it. As well as failing to invoice for these costs, the council continues to pay all the companies bills, as well as allowing the company to use council staff, services and resources, all without a single penny being repaid, or a single invoice issued.

In the letter to councillors, Sustainable Shetland quote Chief Executive of Shetland Islands Council, Morgan Goodlad, as saying the council “simply cannot continue to meet these expenses for a company it has no locus in”. However, despite the chief executive saying this on 29 January, no invoice has been sent to Viking Energy Ltd, and no money received from them.

Speaking on behalf of Sustainable Shetland, vice chair Kevin Learmonth said:
“It is simply unacceptable that public funds are used in this way. I find it worrying that normal standards of scrutiny, accountability and “following the public pound” can be set aside because of political motivation.”

Mr Learmonth believes that this is happening because

“Viking Energy Ltd has three directors who are also councillors, and that all councillors are trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust, which is the main Viking Energy shareholder.”

Shetland Charitable Trust claims to be an independent charitable organisation. However, the Trust has been the focus of intense scrutiny from Scottish Charity regulator OSCR, because of its membership and potential conflict of interest caused by 22 of its 24 trustees also being local authority councillors. OSCR has given the Trust until July this year to come up with an action plan to improve governance.

Mr Learmonth pointed out that:

“The failure of Viking Energy Ltd to adequately capitalise itself to meet its debts is a matter for Viking Energy, not Shetland Islands Council. The inability of Shetland Charitable Trust to rid itself of conflicts of interest to enable it to allocate money to Viking Energy is also not a local authority issue”.

In closing Mr Learmonth said

“The council should stop spending public money to bankroll a company they have no financial interest in, and invoice Viking Energy immediately for all costs to date.”

Notes for editors:
Sustainable Shetland is a Shetland community campaign supporting sustainability and opposing the Viking Energy wind farm project. Founded in February 2008, Sustainable Shetland has over 500 paid up members.

Viking Energy Wind Farm is a joint project between Viking Energy Ltd and SSE Viking Limited to build a £600m, c.550 MW, c.150 turbine wind farm in Central mainland Shetland. If built it would be the largest wind farm in Europe.
Shetland Charitable Trust own 90% of shares in Viking Energy Ltd. The remaining 10% are owned by 4 private individuals.

Press release ends

Letter to Audit and Scrutiny Committee Read letter to SIC audit committee in PDF format (17kb)

Letter from Shetland Islands Council Chief Executive to Shetland Charitable trust SIC Chief Exec. Morgan Googlad letter 87 kb 87kb
For more information contact:

Kevin Learmonth
Sustainable Shetland
Tel. 01595 880503