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Gremista winter times 2018 19

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An inspirational weekend

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra's guest conductor David Danzmayr - Photo: Billy FoxSHETLAND has been a “gift and an inspiration”. That was the résumé of Ellen Thomson, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s director for education following a hugely successful four day visit to the isles.

Her view was echoed by guest conductor David Danzmayr when he addressed the 700-strong audience ahead of Sunday night’s symphony concert that featured works by Britten, Sibelius and Shetland’s very own Chris Stout.

And there was general agreement that it will not take another 21 years before audiences in Shetland will again be able to enjoy the delights of listening to a full symphony orchestra.

During their five day visit – an advance party of musicians had already flown in on Thursday to be ready to embark on their journey to the outer isles on Friday morning – close to 2,500 islanders, more than 10 per cent of the population, attended the 15 performances and concerts.

The visit of the 80-strong orchestra had been in the planning for about two years with the hot phase of preparation starting about six months ago. Planes needed to be chartered, accommodation for musicians and support staff had to be found and booked while the programme for the extended weekend grew larger and more complex by the day.

When partner Shetland Arts had the idea to take the RSNO’s Out and About project to the four compass points of the islands, and also broadcast the four resulting concerts live via the internet, the logistics became challenging.

At the end it all worked out fine, initial technical problems were overcome and the musicians in the four village halls/schools were able to see and listen to each other’s arrangement of a Chris Stout musical theme.

The only slight, and predictable, hitch was caused by the weather when the three musicians visiting Fair Isle were unable to return to the mainland on Saturday and had to stay for another day. The three are said to have made the most of their extended visit to the island.

There is no doubt that the musicians have enjoyed their visit to the far north as much as local people have appreciated the chance to see Scotland’s national orchestra performing on their islands.

The RSNO’s concert and tours manager Nick Lander said: “It has been great to be in one place for three or four days. You get really close to many areas and connect with the local community.”

And speaking during Sunday afternoon’s rehearsal for the symphony concert, conductor David Danzmayr said: “This concert is obviously the culmination of the whole visit, but we also did so many smaller projects.

“I think it has been a massive chance of bringing what we love to do to these islands, and hopefully people here have enjoyed it as much as we have.”

So, when will they be back? Taking a full orchestra to a small island community such as Shetland is a logistical nightmare but it is not impossible as the last few days have proved.

Ellen Thomson said that everybody at the RSNO was keen to maintain the many new relationships formed over the last few days and to learn from Shetland’s own distinctive musical traditions.

She said the RSNO’s leader James Clark was “blown away” when introduced to a few Shetland fiddle tunes by young local musicians Sophie Wishart and Hannah Adamson.

She said there were “lots of possibilities” particularly with Mareel opening at some stage this summer. “This visit has sparked a relationship and I intend to build on that,” she said.

Speaking for Shetland Arts, who have been praised by the RSNO for their professionalism and resourcefulness, Bryan Peterson added: “The best thing for me has been taking the musicians to all four corners of Shetland, giving local musicians the chance to play with the RSNO, as well as local audiences having the opportunity to witness a full orchestra.

“I very much hope it will not be another 20 years before we have another full orchestra back in Shetland again.”

And for those who can’t wait to see the RSNO again; they are heading north in June as guests at the St Magnus Festival, in Orkney.

LPA prepares for record breaking cruise season

Aerial view of Lerwick harbour - The Sea Princess at inner anchorage - Photo: LPATHIS SUMMER’S record breaking cruise liner season is expected to generate £1.3 million for the Shetland economy, according to figures releases by Lerwick Port Authority.

Currently 59 cruise ships with an estimated 36,500 passengers on board are booked to visit the islands’ principal port from mid-April to late-September.

The busiest day of the year is likely to be the 29 July when four vessels are due in Lerwick harbour.

The port’s deputy chief executive Victor Sandison said: “Shetland is winning its share in a growth industry and the momentum is being maintained, bringing a potentially significant increase this year.”

The port authority is continuing its support for a Meet & Greet project with locals providing both an onboard and onshore welcome for passengers and crew.

This service also provides a free shuttle bus service to-and-from the town centre for ships berthed at the port’s Holmsgarth facility.

Mr Sandison said: “As well as promising nine more cruise ships and around 6,000 more passengers than last year, the season is an exciting mix of return visits and maiden calls, and it is great to see Royal Caribbean including Lerwick in its itineraries again.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Jewel of the Seas (90,090 gross tonnes) will visit on 25 June, while the Brilliance of the Seas (also 90,090 gross tonnes) is due on 10 September.

Smyril Line’s ferry Norröna - previously a regular caller at Lerwick - will return for a cruise call on 9 May.

Giant rugby star visits

Twenty two year old Richie Gray attending one of the fun sessions at the Clickimin - Photo: Garry SandisonSCOTLAND international rugby player Richie Gray was in Shetland on Friday promoting the appointment of Daniel Meadows as the isles’ rugby development officer.

The two year contract is being paid for by funding from Scottish Rugby and LEADER+. Mr Meadows is the first sport officer in Shetland dedicated to just one sport.

During his brief visit six-foot eight-inch Gray attended fun sessions with youngsters at Bell’s Brae Primary School, the Anderson High School and Shetland Rugby Club, at Clickimin.

Small earthquake strikes off Fair Isle

The epicentre of the earthquake was just off the island - Map: British Geological SurveyISLANDERS and visitors to Fair Isle experienced a small earthquake that struck half way between Shetland and Orkney on Friday afternoon.

According to the British Geological Survey the tremor had a magnitude of 3.2 on the Richter scale.

Fair Isle weatherman Dave Wheeler said he could clearly feel and hear vibrations at just before 3pm on Friday, but didn’t realise initially that he had just witnessed a small earthquake.

“Some people on the island didn’t feel it; but a lot of people did. It was moderately loud and lasted for about five seconds.

“I heard the noise and I felt vibrations, and I thought the vibrations were caused by the low frequency noise.


“Initially I thought it was somebody arriving at the house with a big tractor and I went outside to look but there was absolutely nothing there, but I could still hear a rumble that was dying away.

“I then got a phone call from somebody on the island asking if I had heard the earthquake.”

He said he had experienced small earthquakes before adding that they were neither common nor rare events in Fair Isle. “We would probably get one of these that you either hear of feel every couple of years.

“Recently there have been some down the west coast of Scotland. This one was a relatively large one for the British Isles, but tiny compared to earthquakes elsewhere,” he said.

Friday’s earthquake was also experienced by three members of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra who visit Fair Isle as part of the RSNO’s five day long tour of Shetland this weekend.

Mr Wheeler added that the visiting musicians had also been able to witness the northern lights, on Thursday night.

In January 2009 Shetland mainland was struck by a 3.3 magnitude earthquake that was felt by many local people.

‘Terrific’ welcome for national orchestra

RSNO musicians kick starting their Shetland performances at Sumburgh Airport - Photo: Hans J MarterTHE ROYAL Scottish National Orchestra started their five day visit to Shetland with a big splash when eight musicians gave a surprise performance at Sumburgh Airport, on Friday afternoon.

Led by the RSNO’s principal timpani Martin Gibson, the eight musicians quickly had travellers and staff joining in.

The full national orchestra is visiting Shetland for the first time in more than 20 years as part of the Music Nation initiative, as part of the countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

Mr Gibson said: “We arrived just before lunchtime and we thought we would make a big splash on the island – and it went very well.

“The whole orchestra is actually arriving on the islands and this is the first opportunity where we can play something to islanders and visitors. The response has been terrific.”

Tuba player John Whitener boarding the plane to Foula, on Friday morning.While most of the orchestra will stay in and around Lerwick preparing for the two big concerts on Saturday and Sunday nights, some have ventured further afield as part of the outer isles project hosted by the communities in Fair Isle, Foula, Skerries and Unst.

The collaboration between members of the RSNO and local musicians working together on A screenshot of the Outer Isles project performance on Foula.music composed by Shetland fiddler player Chris Stout was streamed live on Friday night at www.shetnews.co.uk thanks to Shetland Arts.

On Saturday, two groups of RSNO musicians present the orchestra’s concert programme for pre-school children, Mini Monster Music, to audiences at Brae High School, the Clickimin Leisure Centre, Sandwick Junior High School and the Mid Yell hall.

This is followed by a recital at Busta House, in Brae, and a brass concert in the Bigton Hall, both on Saturday afternoon.

St Columba’s Church is the venue for the Big Kirk Chamber Concert, on Saturday evening when the orchestra’s leader James Clark will be joined by strings, brass and woodwind to play music by Mozart, Elgar and Grieg.

This will be followed the next day by the main symphony orchestra when the RSNO play Britten, Sibelius and the specifically commissioned composition Tingaholm, by Chris Stout.

On the Monday the full force of the musicians can be heard once more, this time for the RSNO’s schools concert Heroes and Rogues.

Tickets for all events are available from the Shetland Box Office at www.shetlandboxoffice.org

Tow in job

TWO SMALL creel boats were towed into Scalloway harbour on Friday morning after both broke down while fishing around the small isles to the west of the village.

The picture taken by local photographer Garry Sandison shows the Amazing Grace (LK406) towing the Sea Star (LK273) and the Good Hope (WK209).

Shetland ‘lifts’ above its weight

Colin Fraser during the 270kg car squat at Dumfries last weekend.SHETLAND looks set to dominate Scotland’s strong man competition this year with three out of 12 finalists hailing from the isles.

Last weekend 26 year old Dhanni Moar and 30 year olds Davy Cummings and ColinDhanni Moar lifts a 75kg dumbell Arthur all qualified for the 9 June final in Dumfries coming 4th, 7th and 9th position respectively out of a field of 22 athletes.

The islands have only ever had three men in the final before – Cummings, Stuart Wadley and Neil Hamilton – and never more than one at a time.

“It’s a big achievement, I’m not sure if there’s been anywhere that’s had that number of people qualify before, so little Shetland is certainly punching above its weight,” said Cummings, who came in 8th in last year’s final.

Now Shetland’s strong men are using their negotiating muscle to persuade the competition organisers to stage next year’s final in Shetland.

“We started discussions last year and the organisers are potentially keen to make it happen,” Cummings said this week.

Davy Cummings doing the 310kg deadliftPrevious finals have been held in Fife, Fort William and Edinburgh and this year it will be staged in Dumfries, at the opposite end of the country.

Shetland has put its weight behind the local competition, raising as much money to in support as has been raised nationally for the Scotland-wide event, all of which increases the islands’ chances.

While last year’s Shetland competition took place outside the Clickimin Leisure Complex in poor weather, the search is on for an indoor venue if the national event comes north.

Last weekend’s qualifying event was held in Dumfries’ Burns Gym and was run by former World’s Strongest Man competitor Stuart Murray.The events were:

press medley - 120kg log, 140kg axle, 95kg steel block, 75kg DB to be pressed overhead;
frame carry - 330kg frame to be carried 20m;
car squat - car on a frame to be squatted as many times as possible;
medley - 340kg yoke, 120kg sandbag to be carried 15m each, then 280kg chain and anchor to be dragged 15m;
deadlift - five attempts to get to your heaviest possible deadlift; and
Atlas Stones - six stones ranging from 110kg to 180kg to be lifted on to a 49” wall.

Up Helly Aa’s 101 years old at Uyeasound

uyeasound galley-torchesUYEASOUND Up Helly Aa celebrated its 101st anniversary with Guizer Jarl Tammie Strachan at the helm as Viking warrior Tore Heillersson.

It was a wild and windy day that did not improve by nightfall when the procession had to be shortened because conditions were so inclement.

Uyeasound Jarl Tommy Strachan - all photos: John CouttsBut the poor weather was not enough to put off the assembled Vikings who watched the galley Fjell Hammer succumb to their fiery torches – just as well as it was the actual centenary of the Uyeasound galley burning. There was no galley in 1911.

The jarl squad looked a splendid sight in their red tunics and blue lined cloaks of grey, topped off with red leggings and fine grey and white shields, their impressive red helmets adorned with the wings of greylag geese.

The jarl’s occupation at HNP Engineers was evident in the chainmail that adorned the men as they made their way around the isle.

After breakfast and a visit to Westings where the jarls’ wife Annette hails from, the merry band of windswept warriors made their way to Baltasound to entertain the bairns with their songs and music.

The audience in the Uyeasound hall enjoying performances.There was some sadness this year for there was no Uyeasound primary school to attend, but this was a day for celebration so it was made up for with a visit to the old folk enjoying independent living at home in Bruce Hall Terrace.

Before that though the men enjoyed a hearty lunch at Nordalea care home, where they lit up the faces of the old folk with their cheerful greetings.

The jarl's squad.The afternoon was spent in Uyeasound hall to give folk a foretaste of the night ahead, with a touch of the 21st century coming in the form of a webcam link with the town of Gosport where Annette’s uncle Jim Jamieson lives.

Squad member Ivor Johnson also had the chance to show off his Viking outfit to his daughter Amber via the videolink, for she had travelled to Gosport from Southampton where she studies at nautical college.

The night was bright with song, dance and laughter as 13 squads performed for the assembled guests at the hall until 3am, followed by hop night with the Alan Nicholson Band

The jarls verdict: “I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.”

Island beardies’ four day festival on Yell

This year's Guizer Jarl Graham Hughson.VIKINGS need stamina, especially on the isle of Yell where they like to stretch out a good party for as long as they can.

The Cullivoe Up Helly Aa starts at 7am on Thursday morning and doesn’t end until Sunday night when the squad have their hair and beards shaved into “unique designs”, having involved the whole island in the fun.

This year’s jarl Graham Hughson hails from Mid Yell where he lives with wife Olga and their two bairns Nicole and Reece, commuting to Sullom Voe terminal each day as a maintenance engineer.

As Hjallkel Jonsson he led his 10 man squad, with Nicole and Reece as junior members, through a long day on Thursday visiting Burravoe primary school – saved from the council axe last year – and a gathering of elderly folk in the local hall.

Then it was north to Mid Yell for a showdown with the bairns at the junior high, who had a couple of their own squads to trade songs and skits with the men before they headed for Ilseshavn care home and the local sheltered houses.

The 150 or so guizers having great fun.If Thursday was a long day, Friday was even longer even though it all took place in Cullivoe.

Hjallkel Jonsson was famous for gathering a band of men from Shetland and Orkney called Øyskjeggs – island beardies – just as Graham’s squad included one Orcadian in Ian Anderson.

On Thursday they had revealed their costumes of black and teal crushed velvet tunics, matching cloaks, with leggings and furry boots, supplemented by axes, shields and helmets featuring greylag wings – which were ready to fly in Friday’s 70mph winds.

On Friday it was time for the galley Aegir (Sea god) to come out of her shed, travelling a third of a mile to the local school full of bairns. “To see the expression on their faces was really wonderful,” the jarl said afterwards. Later it was the turn of the old folk to meet the hairy men.

The Cullivoe school bairns travelling in the galley Aegir.The wind eased slightly for the burning and thankfully the weather stayed dry, so the procession was kept to its full length with 150 guizers in 13 squads heading out for a good time.

The long night went well until 4am, and it was up the next day to clean the hall and head for Burravoe in a fleet of buses taking 100 Cullivoe folk for lunch at Burravoe hall. This was followed by a big family afternoon before travelling back north for the hop at Cullivoe with entertainment from some local comic acts, singer Erin Sandison and tunesmith Lewie Peterson.

Sunday was a day off until the evening, clean up time and goodbye to the haircuts. The clippers came out to give each jarl squad member a unique design before the whole lot comes off at the return this coming weekend.

The jarl’s verdict: “It’s been an absolutely tremendous experience that couldn’t be done without the support of the squad and the families who have been working at it throughout the winter. I need to keep my toorie cap on for now though, ‘cause I look quite strange.”

Coast to coast Olympic film relay

SHETLAND’S contribution towards the London 2012 Festival being held as part ofPic. Billy Fox the Olympic Games celebrations is a relay of short films made by ordinary people to be shown at 21 venues across the country.

This week Shetland Arts launched the Hansel of Film website at hansel2012.org where people can submit a film, volunteer to become a “runner” transporting films from venue to venue or sign up to attend a screening.

Hansel is the Shetland dialect word for a special gift to commemorate something new.

The relay begins in Shetland on 10 June when the Olympic torch relay reaches the islands at its most northerly point, and will culminate in a marathon screening of more than 100 short films at Screenplay, Shetland’s annual film festival, between 4 and 9 September.

The Hansel of Film has the backing of film critic Mark Kermode and film historian Linda Ruth Williams, who curate Screenplay and will greet the runners at the relay’s halfway point in Southampton’s Harbour Lights cinema.

The couple said: “We are delighted to be launching this exciting, nationally inclusive film relay, which will encompass many of the nations and regions of the UK and will spread the spirit of the London 2012 Festival from Shetland to Southampton and back again.

“We are looking forward to involving filmmakers, cinemas and arts venues who are as enthusiastic as we are about taking movies on the road to celebrate the summer of London’s hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Submissions are being welcomed from all ages and walks of life, and can be about any subject and take any form from documentary to music video. However they must be no longer than five minutes long and be suitable for general viewing.

The runners will carry the films from venue to venue in whatever imaginative way they can devise, with Shetland Arts covering expenses along the way.

Project manager Kathy Hubbard said: “Hansel of Film is truly a coast-to-coast project and we are looking forward to the many new friends and relationships that will be made as we visit over 20 venues and communities.

“This is about celebrating the creativity of the public at large, and about bringing people together to enjoy films on screens large and small around the British Isles.”

Tickets for the events are free and can also be booked via the Hansel of Film website.

5p fuel duty cut already Shetland-wide

Shetland had a three week head start on the government's 5p fuel duty rebate.DRIVERS in Shetland should not expect a 5p cut in the price of fuel on Thursday when the coalition government’s rebate is due to come into force.

All but a handful of petrol stations throughout the islands reduced their fuel prices three weeks ago following the lead set by Ollaberry and Hillswick shops, in Northmavine.

The rebate has since been cancelled out by a rise of 4p and 4.5p on diesel and petrol, plus the extra VAT charged on that.

Other remote parts of Scotland have not applied the rebate early, meaning Shetland has been enjoying cheaper fuel than other island communities.

Sam Chambers, chairman of GB Oils, whose brand Scottish Fuels supplies all Shetland’s fuel stations, strenuously denied charges that his company is “profiteering”.

He told a meeting in Stornoway one month ago that his firm made an average of 2.6p per litre gross profit on diesel in Lewis that year, from which it had to cover all its operating costs. The gross profit on petrol was higher, but still less than 5p per litre, he said.

Profits in other areas varied, but he said that they were equivalent and only increased to cover the extra cost of delivery to different parts of Scotland.

“If you deliver 30,000 litres it will be a different price than if you’re delivering 500 litres,” he explained. “If you shop at a village store you pay more for a tin of beans than you do in a supermarket.”

He added that the profit margin his company made had not increased since they took over distribution in the Scottish islands from BP in April 2007.

Mr Chambers, who attends Shetland Islands Council’s external transport forum on 19 March, said GB Oils was co-operating fully with the Office of Fair Trading’s inquiry into the cost of living in remote parts of the UK.

“We make a fair and reasonable margin and we are quite happy for anyone to scrutinise our books,” he said.

“If you want cheaper fuel in Shetland, phone up Tesco and ask them to open a petrol station. If they want to come they can come, at the end of the day we will only survive if people buy our product.”

However one Lerwick fuel retailer warned that if Tesco started selling fuel at a cheaper price, others would probably have to close their doors.

The government introduced the fuel duty rebate two months ago for retailers to protect their cash flow, so they would be able to start claiming money back by the time they were supposed to sell fuel more cheaply on 1 March.

However the bulk of Shetland’s petrol stations were forced to apply the fuel duty rebate early when Leasks’ petrol station at Gremista, the only one run by Scottish Fuels directly, followed the lead of Hillswick and Ollaberry and dropped their prices on 10 February.

Mark Robinson, of Robinson & Morrison in Weisdale, said: “When Leasks decided to follow suit we had no choice. We generally match their prices exactly because if we are different by more than 1p, we will lose about one third of our trade, which comes to be a lot.”

Due to the early price cut in Shetland, which does not appear to have been reciprocated elsewhere in Scotland, some retailers have been suffering.

Mr Robinson said it had already effected their cash flow, and they were only part filling their tanks to help ease the pressure. “I am happy customers have benefitted, but for us it will make it tight until revenue and customs give us the money back.”

He said he had suggested it would have been more effective to apply the duty cut at the fuel depot rather than the petrol pump.

Meanwhile drivers inevitably remain unhappy with the ever rising fuel prices.

ZetTrans chairman Allan Wishart spoke for many when he said: “It seems very coincidental that the price goes up by 5p the same week the government give a 5p derogation, we need an explanation for that. Has the same increase occurred on the mainland?”

Mr Robinson said he understood the price in Aberdeen was just 6p less than Shetland since the rebate was applied. “It’s done what it’s supposed to do, reduced the difference between here and Aberdeen,” he said.

However Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said unleaded in Aberdeen was 135p, 11p cheaper than Shetland.

"If Shetlanders don't see a 5p fall in the difference between Aberdeen and Lerwick then somebody is profiteering at local motorists' expense," he said.

Experts say the worldwide increase in oil prices is connected to global markets reacting to the bloodshed in Syria and threats of a conflict between Israel and Iran over nuclear energy.

Financial speculators who make money by trading on the price of fuel are making a fortune pushing up the price by stoking fears over the crises in the Middle East.

Such speculators, who never actually take possession of the oil they are trading in, now account for 64 per cent of the market, with just one third being accounted for by producers and end users.

Observers say the blame cannot be placed at the door of declining oil reserves or increasing demand from the likes of China.

Anderson High asked to inspire other schools

Anderson High School as seen from the sky. Pic. John CouttsLERWICK’S Anderson High School has been asked to share best practice with the rest of Scotland following a glowing report by HM education inspectors.

The 900 pupil school particularly impressed the inspection team with their use of video technology in PE classes to improve performance, and the way children of all abilities and support needs are involved in learning modern languages.

Shetland Islands Council described the report as “exceptional”, after inspectors said the school was coping extremely well with current changes around the government’s Curriculum for Excellence.

Head teacher Valerie Nicolson welcomed the report, saying inspectors had told her the school was “holding its own” with other schools throughout Scotland.

She added: “I feel a sense of relief as this is a time of real educational change with quite a bit of uncertainty out there about Scottish education at the moment.

“It was very reassuring to have these visitors come along and say we are really heading in the right direction in how we are coping with change and planning to get the best for our pupils.”

The inspection took place as the Lerwick school was accommodating an influx of more than 100 new youngsters from the Scalloway secondary department, which was closed last summer to save money.

There has been added uncertainty about the future of the Anderson High itself, after plans to build a new school at The Knab were dropped in September 2009 after workmen were already on site.

The council is now approaching the Scottish government for funds to build a new school at Lower Staney Hill.

The inspection report, published on Tuesday, highlighted:

  • well-behaved, responsible and enthusiastic young people;

  • a safe, caring, inclusive and supportive environment;

  • high quality support for young people with learning needs;

  • enthusiastic and dedicated staff; and

  • strong leadership from the head and her deputies.

Councillor Betty Fullerton, who chairs the education and families committee, said she was particularly “heartened” that the inspectors reported that the Scalloway pupils felt included and were able to progress their learning well.

However the greatest accolade was for the PE and modern languages departments, whose innovations are to be the subject of a repeat visit to gain ideas to inspire other schools.

In PE the school videos pupils as they take part in various sporting activities, so they can immediately see how they could improve their performance.

“This technology was used in golf to film your swing and compare it to Tiger Woods. We use it to give immediate feedback to young folk, it’s much better than someone trying to describe how to achieve a higher standard,” Ms Nicolson said.

The modern languages department also impressed inspectors with the way all pupils, regardless of ability or support needs, were encouraged to keep up a language until they were 16 years old.

“They considered this to be a very inclusive school, but they thought the modern language department was making a really good effort compared to others nationally,” the head teacher said.

“Anderson High is a Shetland-wide school with young people from Unst to Fair Isle so we want to do the best for the whole community.”

Highlands and islands list MSP Jean Urquhart has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating the school for its report.

“The Anderson High School consistently delivers education of the very highest order, and the latest HMIE report once again, confirms this. The head teacher, staff, pupils and parents can all be very proud of what their school is achieving," she said.

The report can be found at 


New SIC must 'hit the ground running'

Drew Ratter has thrown his hat in the ring for the May SIC elections, calling for a new team spirit on the council.THE STARTER gun for the council elections has fired early with former councillor Drew Ratter calling for candidates to come together on a platform of policies so they can "hit the ground running" in May.

The Ollaberry crofter, who stands down as chairman of the Crofters Commission next month, declared his intention of standing for election to the Shetland North ward on Tuesday.

He said he had spent the past few months having "a conversation" with various local people, only some of whom are potential candidates, to present the public with a set of coherent policies to vote on.

"Candidates from different parts of Shetland should let it be known in advance what they are willing to do for their constituents, where they stand on the big issues that Shetland will face in the coming five years and that they are committed to working together," he said.

"Continuing to construct teams from a pool of 22 players after the elections is like choosing your football team after the whistle has gone."

The lack of mutual trust was one reason the council had failed to provide community leadership recently, he said. The key to bringing back the “civic confidence” Shetland enjoyed in the 1970s was a return of the spirit of co-operation that existed in the past.

"I believe that establishing a group of councillors who will work together, openly, and who trust each other, is essential, if we are to avoid another five years of drift, and I believe it can be done.

"I believe considerable progress has been made towards getting a team, and towards getting a mechanism for considering and examining policy in Shetland.

“We are in such a difficult situation, allowing an extended period to pass without giving some very serious thought as to what you are going to do is not an option. This next council has to hit the ground running."

Mr Ratter hopes to develop a Shetland think tank after the election, looking at big issues such the islands’ response to Scottish independence and the current crisis in public finance.

Though a lifelong member of the Labour Party, he does not think Shetland Islands Council is the right place for political parties to operate, nor does he believe in secret “Masonic” groupings.

Nominations to stand for the council open on 13 March and close at 4pm on 29 March.

Man bailed on cocaine charge

A LERWICK man has been released on bail after appearing at the town’s sheriff court charged with drug offences.

Paul Grant, aged 24, was arrested after police stopped his car in Lerwick at 8.20pm on Saturday and found suspected cocaine with an estimated street value of £1,300.

On Monday he appeared in private at Lerwick Sheriff Court where he made no plea or declaration and was released on bail.

This is the third drugs arrest in the town in the past week, after two 45 year old men were charged when large quantities of cannabis and amphetamine were found on Wednesday and Thursday.

Innes Irvine, of Lerwick, made no plea or declaration after appearing in private on Thursday and a second man, yet to be named, was released from custody and is expected to appear in court this week.

Police have vowed to continue targeting those involved in the illegal drugs trade after claiming to have seized drugs with a street value of more than £75,000 since the start of the year.

Chief inspector Angus MacInnes thanked the public for providing information that has led to arrests and seizures and officers who have worked long hours to clamp down on the local drug trade.

Video: Dennis Coutts – Sixties Exposure

Dennis Coutts 1961SHETLAND photographer Dennis Coutts’ exhibition of island life in the 1960s at the Bonhoga Gallery is the most popular ever staged by Shetland Arts.

His images capture a way of life that has since disappeared, but still conjure up distant memories for the hundreds of people who have been turning up in Weisdale ever since it opened.

Before the exhibition draws to a close on 4 March, Dennis spoke to Shetland News about his lifelong love affair with the lens and the circumstances that contributed to a charmed career in the pre-digital age.

Click here to watch the interview.



Caught up in a Catch 22

Former pelagic skipper Josie SimpsonPELAGIC fishermen caught themselves in a Catch 22 when they started landing “black” fish, according to former Whalsay skipper Josie Simpson.

However those days are now long gone and both the mackerel and herring fishery are now accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council for their integrity.

The greatest threat now facing the industry is the actions of Iceland and Faroe, who are unilaterally declaring huge pelagic quotas in the face of an apparently impotent European Union.

Simpson, now leader of Shetland Islands Council, spent his working life at the helm of a pelagic trawler working and living alongside many of the men who found themselves being fined in the High Court on Friday.

When he chaired Shetland Fishermen’s Association he joined a government/industry working group to tackle black fish landings, advising they focus on the shore side of operations rather than the vessels.

It took a long time for the authorities to listen, and it was only when they did that these offences came to light.

He explained that once illegal landing began, it rapidly turned into a vicious cycle.
“When other black fish is being landed that depresses the market because the buyer is getting cheap fish,” he said.

“Once that happens the only way to compensate for the poorer price is to land more tonnage and the more tonnage you land black, the more you depress the market - so it’s a complete Catch 22 situation they got themselves into.”

It had proved easier to bring an end to illegal white fish landings, and when that happened it immediately pushed up the price fishermen received for their catch.

The same thing has happened with herring and mackerel, Simpson said. “Mackerel prices have trebled in just a few years, but it’s just because black fish isn’t finding a sale on the market.”

That has hurt the men in court though, who have been forced to forego quota equal to the amount they landed illegally. That fish is now worth much more than it was between seven and ten years ago.

On top of the fines and the confiscation of their illegal profits, which alone amount to £3.7 million, the 17 skippers – 13 from Shetland – now find themselves much worse off than they would have been if they had not gone down this road in the first place.

There is bitterness too amongst fishermen that while these skippers have been penalised, their counterparts in Europe, some of whom have been found guilty of huge overfishing of tuna, have got away with “a slap on the wrist”.

“If you are going to cut this out completely inside the EU then everybody has to be treated the same and I don’t think they are being treated the same,” Simpson says.

Leslie Tait is now chairman of Shetland Fishermen’s Association. He stresses that the Shetland and Scottish pelagic fleet have made substantial efforts to ensure the sustainability of the stocks on which they depend.

He cites the MSC accreditation, as well as the doubling of the herring quota in 2012, which indicate that overfishing prior to 2005 had no long term adverse effects on the stock.

Tait also highlights the fishermen have had three penalties for their actions – lost quota, confiscation orders imposed in December and now fines.

“Whatever short-term financial benefits these fishermen may have gained through their illegal landings have been more than outweighed by the losses they have suffered through the pay-back of quotas and other penalties that have been imposed on them.”

He too draws attention to the more serious threat coming from Scotland’s northern neighbours who are buttressing their ailing economies by grabbing extra quota in defiance of international agreements.

“The ‘illegal’ catches being taken by (Iceland and Faroe) far exceed the illicit landings made by Shetland fishermen and pose a much greater threat to the sustainability of this fishery.

“There has to be a level playing field; we cannot have a situation where our fishermen are penalised for overfishing, but fishermen from other countries are allowed to fish the same stocks without restraint.”

Simpson is reminded of the way the UK lost the argument over the blue whiting fishery, finding its share reduced from 57 per cent to 22 per cent because the two island nations along with Norway built up an “illegal” track record.

Meanwhile Whalsay is coping with the stigma of being labelled a “millionaires’ island” funded by criminal fishermen in its own stoic fashion. Simpson says people may be talking about it at the moment, but it’s not been a big topic of conversation on an island that depends almost entirely on fishing for its continued existence.

A black day for fishing

Shetland Catch at the north end of Lerwick harbourALL seventeen skippers fined at Glasgow’s High Court on Friday took part in an elaborate hoax that succeeded in sneaking thousands of tonnes of mackerel and herring in and out of Shetland Catch’s huge Lerwick factory unnoticed, in what judge Lord Turnbull described as “an episode of shame” for the industry.

It was a highly sophisticated operation that involved not just the skippers of Shetland and north east pelagic trawlers, but the vessel’s agents and the fish factory itself.

Peterhead ran its own scams at the Fresh Catch factory and the now defunct Alexander Buchan factory, which were based on similar, well established methods that involved many people.

Underground pipes, secret weighing scales and fake computer read outs allowed 170,000 tonnes of fish worth around £63 million to be landed and sold outside of the European quota system from the three premises.

Fisheries officers had long suspected that over quota fish were being landed illegally at some of Scotland’s eight pelagic fish factories.

However it was only when they hired financial experts KPMG to examine the companies’ accounts and compare them to the notified landings that they put two and two together.

After studying the figures from 1 January 2002 to 28 March 2004, they found that Shetland Catch – Scotland’s largest fish factory – and Fresh Catch could not justify their earnings from the landings they had declared.

On 27 September 2005 fisheries officers backed up by police searched the two factories under warrant. The following May they raided Alexander Buchan’s premises after another alert from KPMG.

There followed a massive investigation dubbed Operation Trawler, which involved a basic team of 24 police officers from based in Inverness, Aberdeen and Lothian and Borders, along with members of the Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency.
They were joined by four British Sea Fishery Officers all working full time on this case, pulling in extra support as required.

Officers of the court were also involved, as were the country’s electronic scanning and money laundering units.

Suspects were interviewed for at least a whole day, and often substantially longer. A total of 20,000 productions were gathered as evidence for the eventual court case, with enquiries stretching the length and breadth of the UK and as far afield as Norway.

The scales which were rigged to give out two readings, one false one for the fisheries inspectors, and one accurate one for the company, the fishing boat and the agent.What the investigators found at Shetland Catch was a set of rigged scales that could be manipulated to give out false readings.

A reduced reading was displayed on a computer screen visible to fisheries officers when they inspected the premises, while a correct reading was displayed on a computer in the factory loft.

A further screen displaying the correct reading was based in an engineer’sThe screen in the engineer's workshop that revealed the true figure of what had been landed. workshop well away from the main building. Only two people had access to this workshop.

Other systems were used in Peterhead where Fresh Catch had a method of diverting fish through pipes to avoid weighing scales altogether, while Alexander Buchan had a second conveyor belt that took the undeclared fish.

The investigation discovered that the skippers and the factories would contact each other by phone while the boat was still at sea, deciding between them how much of the catch would be declared and agree a price. The skipper would then record the agreed “official” figure in his log book.

This lower figure would be backed up when the skipper submitted his landing declaration within 48 hours of coming ashore, and when the factory issued a sales note.

The third element in the network were the fishing agents, including Lerwick’s LHD Ltd, when they invoiced the factory for the fish.

The agents had three methods of invoicing. Firstly they simply submitted two invoices, one matching the declared landing and the second correct invoice being marked secret.

This was replaced by inflating the price per tonne so the smaller amount of fish appeared on the invoice, but the total value of the actual catch was covered. 

The third method involved what was called the “Japanese bonus”, ostensibly to pay for good quality fish, when in fact it was to disguise the true size of the landing.

Shetland Catch has admitted its involvement in illegal landings between 1 January 2002 and 19 March 2005, and is expected to be sentenced next month.

Six more Scottish skippers await sentences for landing fish at Shetland Catch and the two other factories, as does Fresh Catch for their involvement. A further four north east skippers are facing prosecution for similar offences, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Skippers fines range from £3,000 to £80,000

THE HIGH Court in Glasgow on Friday issued fines totalling £960,000 to 17 fishing skippers and one former fish factory over illegal landings between 2002 and 2005.

The fines come on top of a £3 million confiscation order for the profits they made through this sophisticated scam.

The fishermen were also forced to forego quota to make up for the thousands of tonnes of black fish they caught.

The 17 skippers, 13 of whom are from Shetland, all landed over quota mackerel and herring at Lerwick’s Shetland Catch factory using an elaborate mechanism to avoid detection.

Sentences passed (in order of severity) were:

£80,000 fine and £425,900 confiscation order against Enterprise skipper Hamish Slater, 52, of Strichen Road, Fraserburgh;
£70,000 fine and £371,300 confiscation order against Serene skipper Robert Polson, 48, of Breiwick Road, Lerwick;
£70,000 fine and £341,000 confiscation order against Enterprise skipper Victor Buschini, 51, of Kiln lane, Hambleton, Lancashire;
£50,000 fine and £283,000 confiscation order against Kings Cross skipper Alexander Masson, 65, of Strichen Road, Fraserburgh;
£80,000 fine and £236,000 confiscation order against Zephyr skipper John Irvine, 68, of Braeside, Symbister, Whalsay;
£45,000 fine and £213,000 confiscation order against Research W skipper William Andrew Williamson, 65, of Westerlea, Symbister, Whalsay;
£80,000 fine and £210,700 confiscation order against Antares skipper Laurence Anderson Irvine, 66, of Aviemore, Symbister, Whalsay;
£50,000 fine and £196,000 confiscation order against Kings Cross skipper Alexander Wiseman, 60, of Sandyhill Gardens, Banff;
£40,000 fine and £140,900 confiscation order against David Hutchison, 66, of Ankerhus, Symbister, Whalsay;
£40,000 fine and £140,500 confiscation order against Serene skipper Thomas Eunson, 56, of Westwinds, Symbister, Whalsay;
£35,000 fine and £120,600 confiscation order against Allister Irvine, 63, of Karinya, Symbister, Whalsay;
£35,000 fine and £118,500 confiscation order against Research W skipper Gary Williamson, 52, of Norvag, Symbister;
£12,000 fine and £51,300 confiscation order against Adenia skipper George Andrew Henry, 60, of Noonsbrough, Clousta;
£15,000 fine and £41,300 confiscation order against Antarctic skipper John William Stewart, 57, of King Harald Street, Lerwick;
£12,000 fine and £40,700 confiscation order against Adenia skipper George Anderson, 56, of Harbourview, Symbister, Whalsay;
£3,000 fine and £12,000 confiscation order against Antarctic II skipper Colin Andrew Leask, 39, of Vaarheim, Symbister, Whalsay;
£3,000 fine and £2,700 confiscation order against Serene skipper Allen Anderson, 55, of Solvei, Symbister, Whalsay.

The former Alexander Buchan factory was fined £240,000 for assisting a separate group of skippers to make false declarations at its Peterhead premises and has confiscation order of £165,000 served on it.

On Friday three fishermen also pled guilty to landing fish worth £3.5 million at the Peterhead factory.

They were 54 year old Alert skipper James Smith (fish worth £238,008); 36 year old Alert skipper John Smith (fish worth £1,529,096); and 49 year old Unity skipper Stephen Bellany (fish worth £1,856,157).

In a separate case three other fishermen have admitted landing fish illegally at Peterhead’s Fresh Catch factory. Two of these had also admitted landing black fish at Shetland Catch, the combined value amounting to £6 million.

They were 64 year old Christina S skipper Ernest Simpson (fish worth £1,468,961.64 at Shetland Catch and £551,152.49 at Fresh Catch Ltd; 42 year old Christina S skipper Allan Simpson (fish worth £2,118,904.01 at Shetland Catch and £593,726.37 at Fresh Catch); and 63 year old Quantus skipper Oswald McRonald (fish worth £1,266,990.97 at Fresh Catch).

Fresh Catch itself also pled guilty to submitting false declarations for fish amounting to £10.5 million.

Sentence on these six has been deferred until 18 May at the High Court in Edinburgh.

After the hearings, Lindsey Miller, head of the Crown Office’s Serious and Organised Crime Division, said investigations were still going on into other landings.

Detective superintendent Gordon Gibson of Grampian Police, who led the police investigation, said: "The scale of crime committed by these individuals was at a level rarely seen before.

"It was apparent during our investigations that these individuals totally disregarded any legislation to prevent this occurring and as can be seen from the landings made, they amassed huge sums of money through their own greed and today this caught up with them in a court of law."

Black fish skippers fined £720,000

SEVENTEEN fishing skippers, including 13 from Shetland, have been fined a total of £720,000 for their part in a massive black fish scam that netted tens of millions of pounds.

The 17 appeared in the High Court in Glasgow on Friday after admitting their involvement in the sophisticated fraud, which was described as having taken place on “an industrial scale”.

Thousands of tonnes of herring and mackerel worth around £63 million were landed illegally over a three year period at Lerwick’s Shetland Catch factory as well as the Fresh Catch factory and the Alexander Buchan factory in Peterhead.

The fish went undetected through an elaborate system of falsified log books, rigged computers and weighing scales and a network of secret pipes.

The fraud came to light after fisheries officers raided the factories in 2005, uncovering the biggest black fish scam to reach court in Scotland’s history.

The 17 men fined today all landed fish at the Shetland Catch factory.

The Shetland skippers are Robert Polson, aged 48; John Irvine, 68; William Williamson, 65; Laurence Irvine, 66; David Hutchison, 66; Thomas Eunson, 56; Allister Irvine, 63; Gary Williamson, 52; George Henry, 60; John Stewart, 57; George Anderson, 56; Colin Leask, 39 and Allen Anderson, 55.

The other skippers are Hamish Slater, 53, and Alexander Masson, 66, both from Fraserburgh; Alexander Wiseman, 60, from Banff and Victor Buchini, 51, from Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.

A further 10 skippers have pled guilty to similar charges and will be sentenced at a later date.

They have already been ordered to hand over almost £3 million under confiscation orders.

Fishing boat drifting after fire

SIX crewmen on board a Scottish white fish boat have been drifting in high seas off Shetland after a fire broke out in their engine room just before noon on Friday.

Shetland coastguard scrambled the Sumburgh-based helicopter and the Lerwick lifeboat was launched to help the Ullapool-registered Maranatha one and a half miles east of Unst.

Shortly afterwards the crew reported that they had regained some power in their engines, but a decision was taken to land a paramedic on board after some reported inhaling smoke.

The lifeboat was due to arrive at the scene around 2pm after steaming through rough seas as westerly winds gust up to 70mph.

Second arrest after more drugs seized

SHETLAND police have made their second major seizure of drugs in two days, arresting a second man after a house search uncovered cannabis and amphetamine.

Police said the drugs were found following the arrest of 45 year old Innes Irvine, of Lerwick, on Wednesday outside the town’s Bell’s Brae primary school.

He was charged on Thursday in private at Lerwick Sheriff Court with being concerned in the supply of cannabis with a potential street value of £18,000, as well as obstructing officers and threatening or abusive behaviour.

The following day police followed this up with the search of a house in Lerwick where they say they found suspected herbal cannabis worth £3,500.

A further search of a vehicle using the Dogs Against Drugs charity’s sniffer dog recovered £5,000 of suspected amphetamine.

Police said a second 45 year old has been released from custody. He will be reported to the procurator fiscal and is expected to appear in court next week.

Fair Isle yoals in starring role

Fair Isle boat builder Ian Best and his son Tom work on one of the two yoals for the film Between Weathers - Photos: Liz MusserTHE TEAM behind plans to shoot a full length movie in Shetland are awaiting the delivery of two traditional boats currently being built by Fair Isle boat builder Ian Best.

The two yoals were commissioned last September by Between Weathers director Jim Brown and are now nearing completion.

The two wooden rowing boats, set on a 10ft keel, are strictly speaking too small to be yoals, and better described as fouraeens.

To be named Golden Gleam and Silver Spirit after main sponsor George Stroud’s grandfather’s boats, they are set for a starring role in the movie.

No official date for the start of shooting Between Weathers has yet been set, but it is widely expected that some filming will be done this spring.

Mr Best said building the two traditional boats had been “a fine job for the winter”,The master and his apprentice. Tom watches his father Ian at work on the yoal. and had also enabled his son Tom to return from Norway to Fair Isle for a few months to help with task.

“It has been a fine job. These are good boats to build, as there is no heavy lifting involved. These boats are not big, but there has to be enough space in them for the one person that rows, plus half a film crew.

“The boats are more or less completed apart from a few small things. I then have to be in touch with the producer to find out how they want them, because they have to be slightly aged. That is something we haven’t spoken much about yet.”

Mr Brown said the two yoals will take centre stage in the film when Thomas and Charles race them through the caves below Fustra in a winner takes all climax to the picture.

Concentrate! Tom hammers in one of the last copper nailsJim Brown said: “The attention to detail on the yoals has been uppermost in everyone's minds; these are traditional boats that have been built in a traditional way using traditional materials.

“We are delighted we have been able to commission these boats to be built on Fair Isle. It demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the Shetland Isles.”

Audit Scotland to probe brig settlement

FINANCIAL watchdog Audit Scotland is to examine why Shetland Islands Council is paying almost £5 million in an out of court settlement over the unbuilt Bressay bridge.

The news comes as another councillor adds his voice to the call for an internal investigation into the error of judgment that led to the pay out.

The total cost of the aborted plan to build a bridge across Lerwick harbour has cost the council more than £7.2 million.

This week it agreed a £4.8 million settlement with Lerwick Port Authority over its decision in August 2005 to go to court to stop a £6 million dredging contract for the harbour’s north mouth four days before it was due to start.

The dredging would have proved fatal to the council’s plans to build a £23 million bridge to permanently link the isle of Bressay with the town of Lerwick, unlocking land for housing development.

Audit Scotland said on Thursday that it would be looking into the settlement as part of its annual review of the council’s accounts.

A spokesman said: "We routinely cover all material transactions as part of our audit work and anything significant would be mentioned in the annual audit report, which will be available in the autumn."

Meanwhile Shetland West councillor Gary Robinson has joined the call for a full inquiry into the Bressay bridge “fiasco”, following in the wake of isles MSP Tavish Scott and Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills.

He was one of four members whose attempt to persuade the council to carry out an investigation was defeated on Monday, when the offer was agreed.

He said the reputational damage of this “ill conceived legal adventure” was being compounded by the council’s unwillingness to hold a full, open and transparent inquiry.

"It's all very well for the council to announce that no one was to blame forwhat happened, but as a maths teacher wouldn't accept an answer without the workings being shown, the community won't accept this conclusion without an inquiry,” he said.

“Lessons must be learned, but for that to happen there needs to be clarity as to what went wrong in the first place."

Mr Robinson did hand out praise to LPA chief executive Sandra Laurenson and the SIC’s former infrastructure director Gordon Greenhil who thrashed out the agreement.

Both organisations have said they wish to put the past behind them and embark on a close working relationship to take advantage of the opportunities being presented by the expanding oil and gas industry west of Shetland, and potential decommissioning work in the North Sea.

The port said the money would help it argue the case for further bank borrowings to build a new quay, a new fish market, and a huge deep water berth at Dales Voe for decommissioning work, which would be its largest project yet if it goes ahead.

Footballer on trial over match language

A SHETLAND teenager was ticked off at Lerwick Sheriff Court for using racially abusive language during a bad tempered football match.

Following a short trial on Thursday that heard from six witnesses, 18 year old Martin Neeson was found guilty of calling a player from the opposite team a ‘black bastard’ in response to a poorly judged tackle.

The complainer, of Asian descent, was born in Glasgow and described himself as coloured Scottish of mixed background.

Neeson, of Smuggabank, Mossbank, claimed in court that what he actually said was: “Fuck off you Hun bastard”, in reference to the Glasgow Rangers shirt the rival player wore.

The court heard that the six-a-side match at the Brae astroturf pitch on 27 September last year had been a heated affair with high tension and plenty of bad language.

Witnesses for the crown and the defence gave opposing evidence as to what had really been said by the accused.

Finding the young apprentice scaffolder guilty of the charge, Sheriff Philip Mann said the witnesses presented by the crown had been more credible than those from the defence.

Admonishing Neeson, the sheriff said he did not regard him as a racist and that his language had been a product of the heat of the moment.

Banned after drinking cough linctus

A SHETLAND-based technician is likely to lose his job with Scottish Water, after taking cough medicine pushed him over the limit for drink driving.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard that 40 year old Melvyn Henderson was almost twice the legal limit when he was stopped on the town’s Sound Brae on 10 June.

The court heard that Henderson, of 2 Park Lane, Lerwick, had drunk four cans of cider the night before, but had also taken several doses of Covonia cough linctus which contains 15 per cent alcohol.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said police had acted on a tip off, but defence solicitor Gregor Kelly refuted any suggestion that his client was in the habit of drink driving.

Mr Kelly said that in all likelihood the alcohol from the cider would have dissipated overnight, but his client had not taken into account the impact of the cough medicine. “It was poor judgement on his behalf”, he said.

Sheriff Philip Mann told Henderson that it was his responsibility to ensure that he knew what he was taking into his body, particularly when he was driving.

Henderson can reduce the period of disqualification by six months should he successfully complete a drink drivers rehabilitation course. He was also fined £720. Henderson is most likely to lose his job with the water utility.

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