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The Common Wealth of Wind in Shetland

I take the title of this Blog entry from James Marriott's Blog, 'Cambo and Viking Energy: The Common Wealth of Wind in Shetland', which you can find here.


It's been a long time since I've written a post in this Blog, and there is a lot to catch up. I'm going to begin by going back in time to January 2022 when Jane Trowell and James Marriott of Platform came to Shetland on holiday. I was able to catch up with them about their latest work, Jane's PhD research and James's book, Crude Britannia: How Oil Shaped a Nation, co-authored with Terry Macalister.


James, Jane and I talked about the oil industry, its history and legacy in Shetland, and in particular the parallels between the oil and renewable energy industries. I was inspired to think differently about ownership models for the development of the renewable energies. Unfortunately the majority of development, at least in Shetland, is following the same pattern as used in the oil industry, which is an old fashioned, colonial model of ownership.


At least with the arrival of the oil industry in Shetland, the Shetland Islands Council revealed remarkable vision, courage and care for the people of Shetland. They tried their very best to receive the oil barons according to criteria and conditions which would benefit the people of Shetland.


Crane at Burn o Petta Waater, Photo: Viking Energy

Sadly that has not been the case with the development of the renewable energies in Shetland, at least so far. The community benefits which are so well publicised by Viking Energy and SSE are an insult to Shetland, corporate spin which offers a pittance to our community in the face of the profits they claim.


James Marriott has written a very fine Blog article about oil and wind energy in Shetland. He asserts that the oil and gas industry in the UK North Sea was deeply affected by the model of private ownership, "as a source of private wealth not a common wealth, to be extracted at the highest profit with a low level of worker rights and ecological protection."

I like his reminder that the tale of Viking Energy is sad and instructive, illustrating that a Just Transition will not be achieved merely by changing from one technology to another, but will require a shift in the structures of ownership accompanied by a shift in how we think and feel around energy, and wind.


His assertion that the Wind Boom is underway, not just in Shetland but across the UK cannot be disputed. I agree with his view that the manner in which the transformation it brings to our world can still be formed, and that we must employ both a "socially just and ecological sensibility. A new way of thinking and feeling, beyond ‘oil thinking’, that helps us share the common wealth of wind." I believe we must act urgently to foster this change.


You should read the Blog and the book, Crude Britannia, How Oil Shaped A Nation, by James Marriott and Terry Macalister. It is a truly harrowing read on many levels, as highlighted in the review by Conrad Landin in The Guardian (25 Aug 2021).