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Fisherman says ‘we’re not going anywhere’

| Written by Chris Cope

Access to Toft pier had been restricted for some time Access to Toft pier had been restricted for some time A LOCAL fisherman has vowed to continue using a small pier in the north mainland to land shellfish despite moves by Shetland Islands Council to close it over safety fears.

The dilapidated pier at Toft, which has not been repaired in years has now developed a second hole, is set to be fenced off as soon as this weekend.

Sidney Johnson, skipper of the Golden Shore scallop boat, said shell fishermen would continue to use the pier despite the council's orders as suggested alternatives - such as Collafirth or Sellaness - were not suitable due to their location.

"We're not stopping using the pier. We're not going anywhere until they provide us with a good alternative," Johnson said.

SIC infrastructure director Maggie Sandison said if people continue to use the pier against the council's orders then the local authority may look into demolishing the structure, which would cost as much as £600,000.

Johnson claimed the council had failed fishermen by allowing the pier to fall into disrepair.

Sandison responded by saying the council was not generating enough income from the pier, as fishermen were not paying all the landing levies the SIC was due.

Meanwhile, plans to invest between £1.5 and £2 million into a new Toft pier appear to be more and more unrealistic and have been described as not financially viable.

Sidney Johnson (not at Toft pier) 'We’re not stopping using the pier' - Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News Sidney Johnson (not at Toft pier) 'We’re not stopping using the pier' - Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News Johnson said skippers don't want to pay the levy, which is 2.5p in every pound made from landings, because the pier has fallen into disrepair and isn't in line with acceptable standards.

"Our argument is, if the levy is in line with the rest of Scotland, then they'd need to bring their piers in line with the rest of Scotland," the shell fisherman said.

"Toft up to not long ago didn't have any proper running water, it didn't even have a tap on it. It doesn't have any power, or any proper access due to the state that it's in."

Johnson said a hole formed around two years ago when a forklift carrying salmon feed breached weight limits on the pier, but nothing had been done to fix it, with the condition progressively getting worse.

Sandison said that the council's past spending history has meant less money was available to maintain the local authority's assets, with the Toft pier suffering as a result.

"Our biggest issue at the moment is that we have looked at the business case for a replacement pier and you cannot justify the investment in the Toft pier from the economic benefits that it delivers to the community, and the income that the council generates," she said.

"Part of that is that we don't generate any income really from the pier. People are not actually paying all of the dues that the council would expect based on the declared landings.

"One of the issues is that our income generation from the facilities that we provide isn't being realised, so when we're looking at whether we invest in the new Scalloway fish market, or replacing a pier, clearly the Scalloway fish market makes a lot of money for the council, whereas the Toft pier costs a lot of money and doesn't make money for the council."

But Johnson said the pier could be improved by spending a "few thousand on it".

"We're willing to do that ourselves actually. Or they could provide us with this pontoon system they're suggesting, but a pontoon is far from ideal for commercial fishing boats," he said.

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