Press release - for immediate use
Wednesday 11 March 2009
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
“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 (17kb)
from Shetland Islands Council Chief Executive to Shetland Charitable
For more information contact:
Tel. 01595 880503
Sustainable Shetland is a campaign group formed in March 2008 in response to a proposal for a large scale wind farm in Shetland. We believe these large industrial projects are damaging to our environment. We believe that the Viking Energy wind farm endangers Shetland Community Funds, project costs are underestimated and project income grossly over stated.
We believe that the Viking Energy proposals are everything we do not need in Shetland: they are financially risky and potentially damaging to the Shetland environment.
We want to see sustainable renewable energy projects in Shetland which are fit for scale and fit for purpose, and provide real community benefit.
We are not an "anti windfarm" campaign. However we are strongly opposed to the Viking wind farm proposal. Other projects will be considered on their own merits.