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SIC governance review on hold

A CALL for a council-wide consultation on how Shetland is governed has been put on hold, one year after it was initially proposed.

Lerwick councillor Jonathan Wills this week proposed that Shetland Islands Council’s audit and scrutiny committee invite all council staff to come up with ideas on how the local authority should be run.

He also suggested the general public be asked to put forward suggestions to the committee and everyone be given the chance to contribute anonymously.

His move marked the first anniversary of his initial proposal to redesign the way the SIC operates, when he expressed his alarm at how much power was concentrated in the hands of the convener and the chief executive.

Councillor Wills said his contribution to the debate would be to see:

  • the convener and vice convener decide which of them was civic head and which political leader;
  • the annual election or reconfirmation of office bearers;
  • the “super departments” controlled by executive directors Hazel Sutherland and Gordon Greenhill broken up into smaller departments each with their own committee to allow “detailed public discussion of the issues”;
  • committee chairs having more authority over what is discussed, and fewer “fancy names” for the network of “committees, sub-committees, boards, joint boards, partnerships, short term working groups, informal working groups, panels, forums, seminars and trusts”;
  • the council’s internal audit section moved out of the finance department “to reinforce and underline its independence”; and
  • a return of the policy and resources committee.

The councillor criticised committee chairwoman Florence Grains for failing to follow up on last year’s commitment to consult with staff, unions and the public on his ideas.

Councillor Grains said she agreed with 80 per cent of Dr Wills’ ideas, but wanted the audit and scrutiny committee to meet privately to discuss a way forward that would be palatable to the full council.

“I would suggest we sit down as a group and come up with more definite things that we can put to the council rather than putting up something so wide sweeping, because I don’t think that would likely get far,” she said.

She won the day by five votes to two, councillor Gary Robinson being the only other to support an immediate consultation exercise.

On Wednesday Mrs Grains had yet to finalise a date for the private meeting, saying it was difficult to “get everyone together”.

Meanwhile acting chief executive Hazel Sutherland told the committee that work on council governance had been put on hold until a new interim chief executive had been appointed, saying it would be their decision to implement any changes to the council’s management and committee structure.

This includes long term help from local authority umbrella group COSLA’s Improvement Service and ideas for a new finance or policy and resources committee.

She said the consultants working on recruiting a new chief would update councillors on progress on 4 May.

In brief for 28 April 2010

Midwife inquiry

TWO SHETLAND women have been given medical advice after being contacted as part of an investigation into a midwife working at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.

The investigation, which will go back 20 years, was launched after a complaint was received by Grampian police following complaints from colleagues. The midwife has been suspended and 22 mothers have been contacted.

NHS Shetland contacted the two local mothers last week and they have been in touch with an obstetrician from Grampian health board.

Medical director Ken Graham said: “We are assured that it’s very unlikely that any harm has come to these mothers or their babies.”

 

Alcohol cash

NHS Shetland is to receive more than £430,000 to help tackle islanders’ harmful drinking habits.

The money is part of a £36 million national programme to help people address their excessive drinking.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “It's vital that we tackle Scotland's drinking culture - too many people are drinking too much, too often and although they may not realise it it's having a detrimental effect on their health.

"This funding will allow boards to continue their work to help people address their drinking before they cause lasting health damage.”

 

Special constables

POLICE in Shetland are looking for people willing to spare some time to serve as special constables.

Sergeant Paul Daley said the force was particularly keen to hear from those living in the outlying islands to help in their local area.

Special constables have the same powers as full time police officers, wear the same uniform and get involved in all aspects of policing in Shetland.

Anyone interested in joining the special constabulary or would like some more information should contact Sgt Daley or Dianne Bryant at Lerwick police station on 01595 692110.

More details can also be found at: www.northernconstabularycareers.co.uk

 

Speeding

FOUR drivers in Shetland have been charged with speeding offences after being caught breaking the 20 miles per hour speed limit outside Lerwick’s Sound primary school.

Police said they had carried out speed checks on Monday and Tuesday following complaints from concerned parents.

Over the last few years Shetland Islands Council has imposed a 20 mph speed limit most island schools.


Parking

POLICE checking vehicles parked beside the football fields at Clickimin have found several which do not have up to date insurance, MOT or tax documentation, after concerns were raised by local people.

The police are reminding vehicle owners that all vehicles require up to date documents, even if parked up with a ‘for sale’ notice on display.

 

No water

AROUND 30 households in Swinister, Sandwick, lost their water supply early on Tuesday morning after a mains pipe burst. Engineers had supplies back on tap by 9am.

Oil decline hits port

LOWER oil industry activity in the waters around Shetland this year has had a negative impact on business at Lerwick harbour.

On Tuesday the port authority reported a drop of 5.2 per cent to 190,500 tonnes in the amount of cargo handled during the first three months of the year.

This also caused a significant decline in the number of vessels using the harbour, down 10.9 per cent to 1,152 between January and March 2010.

Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: "The lower level of offshore industry operations had a significant impact on traffic, but there are some grounds for cautious optimism on the back of industry plans.

"Passenger traffic held steady in the first three months, with more than 17,300 using ferries.

"This quarter will include increased ferry passenger numbers as a result of the volcanic ash restrictions on flying and the first arrivals in what could be a record-breaking cruise ship season. Yacht races in June will contribute to visitor numbers."

She added that whitefish landings were up in value, but continued to be affected by restrictive days at sea regulations.

"White fish, at 2,468 tonnes worth £3.7 million were lower by 24.8 per cent on volume and 24 per cent on value, while the price per tonne increased by 0.86 per cent to average £1,512 per tonne," she said.

Pelagic fish landings meanwhile were down in volume and value due to the early migration westwards of winter mackerel.

The three month period also saw landings of blue whiting to Shetland Catch for human consumption and a limited quantity landed at Heogan, Bressay, for fishmeal.


 

Beach ceremony remembers Kester

AROUND 200 people turned up for a memorial service to remember the life of 51 year old Kester Wigram, who disappeared on the first of April after setting off to sea in a borrowed canoe from Shetland.

After the service at Lerwick’s St Columba Church, about 60 of his friends and family went to St Ninian’s Isle beach from where the New Zealander set off into the open sea, never to be seen again.

Officially he is still a missing person, but yesterday a bonfire was lit, stones were thrown into the sea and flowers floated off on the waves to remember the man who led an extraordinary life.

An outdoor pursuit enthusiast, Kester would climb higher, canoe further and cycle faster than most people believed possible.

His partner Lorna Hughson, with whom he has an eight year old son called Eldon, said that Kester was prone to mood swings. “His moods would go up and down like the waves of the sea,” she said.

“But he fitted more into his 51 years than most people could put into 100. He loved a challenge and would never, ever pick the easy route.”

He arrived in Shetland about 15 years ago and spent most of his time working at Sullom Voe oil terminal as a petro chemical engineer, often cycling the 30 miles to work from his Lerwick home.

The last two years he spent working in Norway where he explored the fjords and the mountains with his usual passion.

His sister Sarah Fitzimons and his eldest son Elliott, aged 26, flew over from New Zealand to attend Monday’s service after attending a similar bonfire ceremony in his native land.

Another two months for Steven

A LERWICK drug addict who tried to smuggle heroin and cannabis into prison was given another two months in jail on Monday.

Last Thursday 22 year old Steven Nicholson, of 12 Park Lane, Lerwick, was convicted of reckless and dangerous driving on icy roads after he admitted driving his car at a policeman on Christmas Day last year.

On Friday a doctor was called to examine Nicholson at Lerwick police station and it was discovered that he had concealed heroin, cannabis resin and cannabis oil worth about £150 inside his body.

Honorary sheriff Malcolm Bell added two months to the 226 day jail sentence

Nicholson received last week.

Sumburgh throughput down by an eighth

PASSENGER numbers at Sumburgh Airport plummeted almost 20,000 to 143,226 last financial year, a drop of 12.2 per cent.

The huge decline was mainly due to loss of oil related traffic, according to manager Nigel Flaws, who said the airport had recorded more than 15,000 fewer offshore passengers in 2009/10. The number of passengers on scheduled flights fell by more than 2,500.

The Shetland gateway suffered the greatest overall decline out of the 11 airports run by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).

Mr Flaws said: "Oil related business is down very significantly, and that has two main factors. There has been a lot less activity offshore, but also with the introduction of new helicopters more can fly directly from Aberdeen to the east Shetland basin without coming in here to refuel."

Mr Flaws said the decline in regular passengers was mainly due to the economic downturn.

The recent disruption caused by volcanic ash from Iceland was not reflected in the figures published by HIAL on Tuesday.

However the new financial year got off to a difficult start with the cancellation of dozens of flights from Sumburgh over a seven day stretch.

"People may not be confident to travel over the next few months before they know what this volcano does. That is certainly a concern for us," the airport manager said.

However with increasing activity in the oil and gas sector he is confident Shetland will be able to win back some offshore business in the North Sea and west of Shetland.

Overall passenger numbers were down by eight per cent for HIAL, with Inverness recording an 11.8 per cent decline to 585,000, while Dundee did exceptionally well with numbers increasing by 12 per cent to 75,000.

The state owned company's revenue budget for 2010/11 has been cut by £1.1 million to £18.1 million as the Scottish government attempts to reduce its expenditure.

One contentious cost saving proposal is to charge for car parking at Sumburgh airport, which many regard as presenting a further threat to airport usage.

Ends

 

Auditors believe trust subsidises SIC

SHETLAND Islands Council is to check whether it is being subsidised by Shetland Charitable Trust, in order to satisfy finance watchdog Audit Scotland that its accounts are in order.

Shetland is the only Scottish council to have its accounts qualified by the auditors, who want to see the council and the trust’s accounts grouped together.

After qualifying the accounts for four years running, the Controller of Audit is investigating the way the authority is run, with auditors interviewing staff and councillors and attending meetings.

This week audit manager Carol Hislop told the council’s audit and scrutiny committee: “Our main concern is that Shetland Charitable Trust is subsidising services being provided by the SIC.”

Her comments were described as “a revelation” by SIC finance chief Graham Johnston, who said he would be seeking further clarification from Audit Scotland.

Councillor Caroline Miller said: “This is the first time I have heard that the reason for the problems with the accounts isn’t because of the make up of the charitable trust.”

Members had previously believed that their domination of the trust, with 21 of the 23 trustees, was the main bone of contention with the auditors.

Mrs Miller called for a report to be presented to the full council as soon as possible outlining what services the council bought in from the trust and what the market price for these would be.

The charitable trust, which handles about £200 million of public money for the Shetland community, has been looking at reform for the past few years to satisfy concerns from the charity regulator OSCR about its independence from the SIC.

Ms Hislop said that even if the trust had no councillors on its board, the council’s accounts would still have been qualified.

She said she had recently held constructive talks with the trust’s chairman, councillor Bill Manson, but did not believe those discussions would change Audit Scotland’s view of the accounts.

“There has to be more work done on that for us to say that SCT is not subsidising the statutory services of the council,” she said.

Last year’s Audit Scotland report on Shetland Islands Council raised concerns about the charitable trust’s structure and its relationship with the council.

It highlighted several examples over the past few years where the two bodies have coordinated their actions to help each other out, including the sale and lease of inter island ferries, the sale and lease of Sullom Voe oil terminal land, the sale of Shetland Towage, and the transfer of Islesburgh Trust and Shetland Welfare Trust.

Filla back at sea

THE FERRY that serves the small Shetland archipelago of Out Skerries was back in service on Thursday after being out of action since the start of the month following a collision at Symbister harbour.

The Filla sustained a ten inch hole in its bulbous bow and dented its bulwark when she ran into and scraped along the concrete pier on the isle of Whalsay.

The vessel was taken to Lerwick’s Morrison Dock, where repairs were carried out by local engineering firms Malakoff and HNP under supervision of its owners, Shetland Islands Council.

During the three weeks the Filla has been out of service, her work has been carried out by her sister vessels Fivla, Geira and Thora.

The master of the vessel on board at the time of the incident was not suspended, and is back on duty after his usual leave.

The council’s inter island ferries board discussed the incident in private on Friday, but would make no comment as it involved a staffing matter.

Transport development manager Ken Duerden said the council was awaiting the outcome of the Marine Accident and Investigation Board’s report into the collision.

He added that maintenance work had been carried out while the Filla was in Lerwick harbour that would reduce the amount and cost of the dry dock work due to be carried

In brief for 23 April, 2010

Budget cuts

THE SCOTTISH government has warned that public spending will be cut by an average three per cent over the next five years, and that it will take up to 15 years for last year’s expenditure levels to be restored.

The estimates come from a review carried out by the government’s chief economic adviser Andrew Goudie and published on Thursday.

Dr Goudie believes that the amount of money the Scottish government will have control of by 2014/15 will be as much as £4 billion down on the last financial year 2009/10.

The review confirms the warning already expressed to local authorities throughout Scotland by finance secretary John Swinney that more cuts are on the way for the foreseeable future.

 

Bad language

THE FAINT hearted are advised to keep away from Shetland library next Wednesday evening when swearing will be ‘de rigeur’ as part of a celebration of unsavoury expressions.

The Bad Language Night was inspired by the popularity of February’s Valentine event when colourful words went down well with the audience.

Turning the air blue next week will be Gordon Dargie, Donnie MacDonald, Jim Taylor, Kat Brack and Mary Blance, with the first three reading from their own work.

Librarian Karen Fraser stressed the event was in no way “gratuitous”. Councillor Gussie Angus added: “Profanity is part of our culture and if it can find its proper place in the arts and literature then I’m all for it!”

The event takes place at 7.30pm on 28 April. Entry is free, but restricted to the over 14s.

 

Tall Ships sponsor

LERWICK logistics firm Peterson SBS has spent £12,000 to become the first Host Port Sponsor for next year’s Tall Ships Race.

The organising company hope to raise £400,000 to deliver a high quality event next year.

Information on becoming sponsors is available at www.tallshipsraceslerwick.com



Oil workers airlifted after accident

TWO oil workers injured in an accident on board the Dunlin oil installation, 85 nautical miles northeast of Muckle Flugga, were airlifted to the Gilbert Bain Hospital, in Lerwick, on Thursday evening.

The coastguard helicopter search and rescue 102 landed at the Clickimin landing site at around 8pm. The initial call to go to the Dunlin field came at 4.50pm.

Young fiddlers step out

ONE of Shetland's most important musical and educational events kicks off on Friday (today) with the financial help of Shetland Charitable Trust.

The 29th Young Fiddler of the Year competition will once again bring together the very best young exponents of the islands' most popular instrument.

Since 1982 the annual contest has featured a veritable who's who of traditional music in Shetland.

This year will prove no exception when 134 young musicians take to the stage over two days at Lerwick's Garrison Theatre.

Shetland Folk Society president Douglas Sinclair said the event was originally inspired by the work of legendary fiddle teacher Tom Anderson, but the driving force behind setting up the competition had been former Anderson High School head teacher John Graham with help from pianist Billy Kay.

Mr Sinclair said: "The event has gone from strength to strength. Winners from the early years are now either teachers who have pupils at the competition or are prepared to act as adjudicators.

"It really is a who's who of Shetland fiddlers if you consider who has actually won it, including Catriona Macdonald, Chris Stout, Jenna Reid, and Maggie Adamson."

The first ever winner was Margaret Scollay, now one of Shetland's most prominent fiddle teachers who has once again supplied many of this year's contestants.

She said: "It is more than just learning how to play the tunes, it is also about performing them. It takes it that step further.

"Winning the event threw me into the social side of playing the fiddle. I was asked to play a lot of concerts, so it meant that I visited communities in Shetland that I previously - at the age of 15 - had not been to.

"You were expected to do a good performance and to me, as a musician at that age, it meant that you couldn't risk letting yourself down, you had to make sure that you performed at your best."

Shetland Charitable Trust contributes around one third of the competition's annual costs of about £2,300, with the rest coming from a Shetland Musical Heritage Trust grant and the sale of programmes and tickets to the gala concert.

SCT principal accountant Mary Anderson said: "Everyone at the trust is extremely proud to be supporting such an important cultural event in Shetland's musical calendar that has changed the lives of many young islanders.

"Our contribution towards the Young Fiddler of the Year competition might be relatively small, but its impact on maintaining the standard of Shetland's musical heritage should not be under-estimated."

 

Christmas car chase driver jailed

A SHETLAND man with drug problems who nearly ran down a policeman after a

Christmas Day car chase on icy roads was sent to prison on Thursday.

Steven Alan Nicolson, of 12 Park Lane, Lerwick, had admitted reckless and dangerous driving at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

The court heard that the 22 year old had been driving a friend home in the early hours of Christmas morning, even though his provisional licence had run out and his passenger could not drive.

Police gave chase when they saw him driving too fast along Lerwick’s King Harald Street on slippery roads after a heavy snowfall, following him at speeds of up to 45mph through the town before he skidded into a pile of snow on Hayfield Lane.

The police officers jumped out of their vehicle to arrest Nicholson, and as he revved his engine to escape his car lurched forward while one of the officers was in front of the vehicle and he had to leap out of the way.

The other officer opened the driver’s door and turned off the ignition. Nicholson was arrested and spent the next two weeks in the cells before being released on bail.

On Thursday, defence agent Tommy Allan said that Nicholson had been trying to get away from the police, “but he is quite clear he would not deliberately run over a police officer”.

Mr Allan said that prior to this incident Nicholson had successfully completed a drug treatment and testing order (DTTO), but had felt so low in Aberdeen’s Craiginches prison that he had started taking heroin again.

Sheriff Graeme Napier told Nicolson it was his responsibility to stay away from drugs and sent him back to prison for 226 days, taking into account the time he had already spent in custody. He also banned him from driving for 10 years, after hearing he received a 12 month disqualification in December 2008.

“This was grossly reckless behaviour. You don’t have a licence and you should not have a car or be out in a car. This was when you were apparently still under control having completed a DTTO, and you made this reckless stupid decision,” the sheriff said.

“I don’t know whether the message will ever get through to you, but I think I have to lay down a marker that this type of behaviour is simply unacceptable and the only way to deal with you is by custodial sentence.”

The sheriff admonished Nicholson for two other charges of possessing small quantities of diazepam, at Clothister, Sullom, on 3 October last year, and heroin at Lerwick police station, on 3 February.

ends



Plumber thought he deserved it

AN EDINBURGH man who became over amorous and then turned violent after drinking too much at a Shetland nightclub last year was beaten up so badly he had to spend two days in hospital, Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Thursday.

Marc McKinlay, of 14 Carrick Knowe Place, appeared from custody after being arrested in Scotland on Tuesday, having failed to turn up in the islands for a previous court appearance.

The unemployed 25 year old admitted slapping two women on the buttocks at Lerwick’s Posers nightclub, on 19 April 2009, and punching one of the women on the head when she became annoyed and remonstrated with him. She was not injured in the assault.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said that both women had been out on a hen night and were dancing at the time. The assaults happened when an extremely drunk McKinlay staggered onto the dancefloor to join them.

He said that McKinlay had been awarded £1,500 compensation after he was violently assaulted later that night by two men in the street outside the nightclub and left for dead lying in a pool of his own blood.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said that McKinlay had been in Shetland working on a plumbing contract, and when asked about the assault on him, he had said: “It looks like I deserved it.”

Last November 27 year old Tristan Sinclair, of 13 Sandside, Mossbank, and 27 year old Stuart Hall, of 28 Goodlad Crescent, Lerwick, were given community service and ordered to pay £750 compensation each after admitted the assault.

However the compensation had not reached McKinlay because his whereabouts were unknown until he was arrested this week.

Sheriff Graeme Napier ordered him to pay £350 in compensation to the two women, money which will be taken from him once he has received his own compensation.

Air service to resume this afternoon

FLIGHTS in and out of Sumburgh airport will resume this afternoon (Thursday) after the ‘no-fly’ zone over Shetland and Orkney has been lifted.

Loganair said this morning that their aircraft had also completed approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate in the “enhanced procedure zone” which will make the airline’s flight schedule less susceptible to disruption.

The company’s commercial director Jonathan Hinkles said: “All flights scheduled to depart before 1pm today (Thursday, 22 April) remain cancelled.

“Thereafter, Loganair intends to resume flight operations from 1pm today and all flights scheduled to depart at or after this time will take place as planned with the exception of services to or from Stornoway, which is in a 'no-fly zone' imposed by the CAA and National Air Traffic Services (NATS).”

He added: “Loganair has now completed the required approvals with the CAA to be able to operate in the 'enhanced procedures zone', which is an area where volcanic ash is present, but at sufficiently low concentrations that it does not pose any risk to flight safety.

“This new approval will enable services to resume throughout the bulk of the Loganair network and it means that our operations are now much less susceptible to disruption from low levels of volcanic ash in the atmosphere.

“We are hopeful that it will allow us to restore a consistent and dependable level of air services throughout Scotland together with our routes to the Isle of Man and from Dundee to Birmingham and Belfast.

"However, it should be noted that there may still be disruptions if and when 'no fly zones' are declared by the CAA and NATS in which the concentration of volcanic ash has risen to higher levels - as was the case over Orkney, Shetland and Stornoway on Wednesday and remains the case for Stornoway on Thursday afternoon.

"These 'no-fly zones' apply to all airlines and are not a matter for the exercise of discretion by Loganair. They are declared by the national authorities and may still periodically affect our flight operations if volcanic activity and prevailing winds result in higher levels of volcanic ash in the airspace through which our flights take place."

For passenger reservations, the options available are:

1.     If your flight has been cancelled, people can:

*         Re-book free of charge for travel within the next 28 days subject to space being available on the aircraft;

*         Re-book for travel at any time at no charge provided that your original fare is available;

*         Obtain a full refund for any part(s) of the journey not taken.

2.     If people have already re-booked their journey but wish to bring their travel plans forward to an earlier date, they can rebook free of charge for travel within the next seven days subject to space being available on the aircraft.

3.     If people are booked to travel within the next 72 hours but need to change their travel plans, they can re-book free of charge for travel within the next seven days subject to space being available on the aircraft.

4.     If people have already requested a refund but now wish to fly within the next 28 days, Loganair will do all that they can to re-instate the booking subject to availability, providing the refund has not been processed.

NorthLink return to normal

LIFELINE ferry services in the northern isles should be back to normal from Saturday when the ferry Hjaltland returns to service.

Ferry operator NorthLink said it will continue its emergency day and night shuttle between Lerwick and Aberdeen until Friday night.

The Pentland Firth ferry Hamnavoe is due back in service on Friday morning after returning stranded travellers from Bergen to Aberdeen on Thursday morning.

NorthLink said on Thursday that the past week had been one of the most challenging they had experienced since they took on the lifeline service in 2002.

The company said that Hjaltland was due to leave dry dock at Birkenhead on Thursday evening and will slot into the schedule on Saturday with a northbound Aberdeen to Kirkwall and Lerwick service due to depart Aberdeen at 5pm.

Her sister vessel Hrossey will operate the southbound service from Lerwick the same night, but with an unscheduled call at Kirkwall.

In order to accommodate the Kirkwall call, which does not normally form part of the Saturday southbound sailing, she is due to depart Lerwick two hours earlier than usual at 5pm.

She is due in at Kirkwall at 10.15pm and scheduled to arrive in Aberdeen at 7am on Sunday morning.

NorthLink managing director Bill Davidson apologised for the inconvenience caused to the company’s customers by the disruption.

“The past week has been one of the most challenging that we have experienced in the eight years that we have been operating the service to the northern isles.

“I want to place on record my thanks to NorthLink staff who have worked tirelessly to address the issues which were arising from an ever-changing situation and to keep the services in operation.

“Our booking centre staff for instance have processed about 8,000 calls this week; some three times the volume we would expect at this time of year.

“I know that we’ve not been able to please all of the people all of the time and, in particular, we and the Scottish government have come in for particular criticism from some sections of the Orkney community.

“I understand their frustration but throughout this challenging period, when hitherto unknown challenges called for hitherto untried responses, we have tried to operate a service which addressed the needs of those who were worst affected by the first universal no-fly ban in UK history.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish government has re-issued the homecoming helpline number to get up to date travel information. The number is 0800 027 0504 or from overseas 00 44 141 272 1333.

 

Turf cut on new social work offices

WORK on building the new £6 million offices for Shetland Islands Council’s social care services is set to commence next week following a turf cutting ceremony on site at the North Ness, on Thursday.

The complex is being developed by Shetland Charitable Trust’s property arm SLAP and then leased to the council on a commercial basis.

Building work will be carried out by local firm Hunter and Morrison who won the contract after a lengthy selection process. The project is expected to be completed by March 2012.

SLAP chairman Jim Henry said: “I am very pleased that we have secured the services of local firm Hunter & Morrisons and I now look forward to seeing progress on this project.”

The 3,000 square metre building will provide much needed space for the isles’ growing social care services, which are currently housed in various offices spread across Lerwick.

It will be a two-wing building with two areas of office accommodation enclosing a glazed fronted social space.

By pursuing a design and build route, SLAP is aiming to construct the office accommodation within budget while still achieving a quality design and a range of facilities, the SLAP spokesman continued.

This project will complement the North Ness business estate which is already managed by the property development company.

SLAP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the charitable trust which holds around £200 million of Shetland’s oil money.

 

NHS deals with travel crisis

NHS Shetland is taking advantage of extra NorthLink sailings to send patients to hospital in Aberdeen, after the disruption to air travel from the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

Meanwhile oil flights to and from Scatsta airport resumed last night after receiving the all clear from NATS, the air navigation provider.

Around 7pm last night (Tuesday) five helicopters took off from the oil airport to collect 95 oil workers stranded offshore in the North Sea and north Atlantic, with 114 workers due to fly up on a fixed wing aircraft from Aberdeen to stay the night in the isles.

Director of public health Sarah Taylor said yesterday that the air ambulance was available to fly life threatening cases, but none had arisen in Shetland since the start of the crisis last week.

The Shetland-based air ambulance helicopter has been in service on the Scottish mainland to help more urgent cases, but has also flown people to hospital in Lerwick from rural Shetland in the past few days.

Some patients who would normally be sent to Aberdeen by air ambulance, such as pregnant mothers, cancer patients and children have been treated at Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital in consultation with specialists on the mainland.

However as a result of NorthLink’s announcement yesterday that they would be operating a shuttle service between Lerwick and Aberdeen to relieve the backlog of air travellers, the NHS has booked some patients on board the ferry Hjaltland.

“Now that we have additional sailings we are able to put some patients on board who need a cabin, and I think we are able to offer everybody who has to go to the mainland a way of getting there,” Dr Taylor said.

A small number of health staff are stuck outside Shetland unable to return to work, but this had not caused any disruption to local services, she added. One visiting consultant had come north on board the ferry.

Some chemotherapy patients have received their treatment in Shetland after medicines were shipped north, and some children who would normally have been treated on the mainland have been kept in Lerwick and examined by a visiting paediatrician.

Anyone with a hospital appointment on the mainland is advised to contact the patient travel service whose contact details are listed on the letter they will have received from the NHS.

Meanwhile Shetland’s inter island service had returned to normal yesterday though few people were travelling.

Loganair were hoping normal service would resume at Sumburgh airport today (Wednesday).

Anderson sent back to jail

A SHETLAND heroin addict was sent to jail for around eight months at Lerwick Sheriff Court after he admitted breaking into a Lerwick chalet and stealing electrical equipment and children’s toys.

Nineteen year old Scott Anderson appeared from custody on Wednesday where he had been held since his arrest for the offence at Hoofields, on 29 March.

Anderson had admitted stealing two stereos, a TV set and its stand along with a number of DVDs, CDs and children’s toys worth around £400 in total. He had taken them to feed his heroin habit, while he had been waiting to join a methadone programme.

On Wednesday the court heard that Anderson had been released from jail on 31 December, halfway through a 13 month prison sentence.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said that Anderson was clean of drugs after his time in custody, and he was keen to stay that way.

However Sheriff Graeme Napier said that he would have to serve the remainder of his previous sentence, as well as extra time for the break in.

Christmas day car chase

A YOUNG Shetland man with drug problems looks set to go to jail after a car chase on icy roads through Lerwick on Christmas day, during which he tried to run down a police officer.

On Wednesday Lerwick Sheriff Court heard how 22 year old Steven Nicolson, of 12 Park Lane, Lerwick, was driving “at speed” along the town’s King Harald Street in the early hours of last Christmas morning when he was spotted by the police.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said that the roads were covered in snow after a heavy fall that night and road conditions were so bad that the police were told not to leave the town.

When Nicolson realised the police were following him he accelerated rapidly, driving “well above the 30 mph speed limit”.

Mr Mackenzie said Nicolson’s passenger pleaded with him to slow down because of the ice on the road, but he refused, saying that he did not want to lose his licence.

He drove at 45 mph along Burgh Road, St Sunniva Street, Gilbertson Road, Hayfield Lane and Goodlad Crescent, narrowly missing parked cars at the side of the road.

Eventually his car spun out of control and he ended in a driveway on Hayfield Lane, revving his engine as hard as he could to get free of a snow drift.

The police caught up with him, leaped out of their car and one of the officers ran around the front of Nicolson’s vehicle to reach the passenger door. Just then the car lurched forward and the officer had to leap out of the way to avoid being hit. The other policeman managed to open the driver’s door and grab the keys before he got away.

Later experts discovered the car had a cracked windscreen that impaired the driver’s vision and a bald tyre.

Nicolson pled guilty to culpably and recklessly driving the car in the direction of a police officer and dangerous driving at grossly excessive speeds on icy roads in a faulty vehicle.

He also admitted possessing small quantities of the Class C drug diazepam at Clothister, Sullom, on 3 October and heroin at Lerwick police station on 3 February.

Sheriff Graeme Napier released Nicolson on bail until Thursday while a social enquiry report on him was updated, telling him not to be surprised if he was sent to custody.

Drink driver jailed and banned for life

A SHETLAND man has been jailed and banned from driving for life after he returned to the wheel of his car following his release from custody on a drink driving charge earlier this month.

Derek Barclay Cowie Johnson, aged 57, of 23 Meadowfield Crescent, Scalloway, had initially been stopped as he drove while more than twice the legal alcohol limit on the village’s Meadowfield Road on 4 April.

He was arrested at home after local people had alerted the police to his driving, but refused to give a breath test until he was at the police station in Lerwick.

He was released the following day, only to return home and repeat the offence, this time being found twice the legal limit while driving along Lovers Loan and Meadowfield Crescent on 6 April.

On Wednesday he pled guilty to both drink driving charges and failing to give a breath sample at his home.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said that Johnson had only bought the car for £2,000 two days before his initial arrest. He said: “This is a man with a significant drink problem who believes it to be entirely appropriate for him to drive the short distance to the shops in Scalloway to pick up his carry out.”

He said that on the second occasion Johnson had mounted the pavement and forced another car to do the same to avoid him.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said that Johnson had just suffered two bereavements and had spent two days in hospital, which had caused problems with his accommodation. “He accepts that when this happened he had gone off the rails,” he said.

Mr Allan added that Johnson, who suffers from mental health problems, had complained about the way his medical condition had been treated while he was in custody over the past two weeks.

Sheriff Graeme Napier jailed him for six months and banned him from driving for life, after hearing that he had been convicted of three previous driving offences, one of which had led to someone’s death.. He also ordered the car to be forfeited and sold by public auction.

Jail for extremely violent assault

A THIRTY year old Lerwick man has been jailed for 16 months after assaulting a woman so badly that her face will need to be rebuilt.

Stephen James Gair, of 20 Russell Crescent, had last month pled guilty to serious assault at a house in the town’s Gilbertson Road, on 13 December.

The assault on his partner’s sister, who was visiting Shetland from England, followed an argument after a night out in the town.

It had been described as a “methodical” and “extremely violent” attack during which Gair repeatedly punched his victim in the head, knocked her to the ground and then repeatedly kicked and stamped on her head. Police had to use CS gas on Gair to stop him.

As a result of the attack the woman is having to undergo surgery to reconstruct her nose.

On Wednesday Sheriff Graeme Napier expressed his concern that Gair appeared to have no feelings of remorse about what he did, or empathy for his victim.

However defence agent Tommy Allan insisted that Gair had been hit hard by his actions, so much so that he had made more than one threat to commit suicide, and in one case he had drunk bleach.

Mr Allan said that Gair could not remember what had happened that night, but had since said that he felt he deserved to go to prison for what he did.

Gair had told him that it was like a horror movie and no one deserved to be like that, and he would like to apologise to his victim. He had also given up drinking alcohol.

Sheriff Napier said that he had no alternative but to send Gair to jail because of the seriousness of the assault, and ordered him to be placed under supervised release order for eight months after his release.

Addict ordered to pay back cash

A SHETLAND woman who stole a purse from an elderly and infirm woman to feed her heroin habit has been ordered to pay back the money she had stolen.

Twenty four year old Samantha Chapman, of 20 Rudda Court, Lerwick, had walked into the 78 year old woman’s home on 8 March, engaged her in conversation and then walked off with her purse.

She spent the £175 she found in cash and electricity tokens on heroin and paying off drug debts before throwing the purse in Clickimin loch. She was arrested shortly afterwards and pled guilty to theft.

On Wednesday Lerwick Sheriff Court heard that a social enquiry report into Chapman had been “positive” and that she was motivated to sort out her drug problems.

Sheriff Graeme Napier told Chapman her crime had been “despicable”. He imposed an 18 month drug treatment and testing order on her and told her she must pay her victim £200 compensation.

Violent soldier freed to live with victim

A FORMER soldier who nearly killed his girlfriend after a night out in Shetland has been allowed to return to live with her in Lerwick.

On Wednesday Sheriff Graeme Napier put 39 year old Jonathan Ladley on probation for three years after he admitted assaulting the woman to the endangerment of her life, at a house on Lerwick’s Brown’s Road.

Last month Lerwick Sheriff Court heard how the woman thought she was going to die in the early hours of 6 February when Ladley repeatedly struck her on the head, pushed her to the ground and throttled her.

She had to spend two nights in hospital treating severe bruising to her throat and ribs as well as swelling to both her eyes.

Ladley had been remanded in custody for social enquiry and psychiatric reports, which were described as very positive in court on Wednesday.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said that it was clear Ladley was good at his job as a soldier and his superiors had tried to persuade him not to leave the army.

Mr Allan said that his previous marriage had suffered after he had served in Iraq, during which he witnessed the aftermath of two roadside bombs in which civilians and children had suffered horrific injuries.

The military had offered him little in the way of psychiatric support, but since his arrest he had seen a psychiatrist who had said that he did not appear to be suffering any extreme form of post traumatic stress, and would benefit from counselling.

Ladley had also acknowledged that too much alcohol had been consumed in his current relationship, and at the time of the assault he had been taking anti depressants, which made him angry and irritable.

The case was adjourned for a few hours to see if an address could be found for Ladley to stay in Aberdeen or Lerwick.

However when this proved impossible, the sheriff addressed Ladley’s victim who had been in court all day.

She said that she would like Ladley to return to live with her, even though the social enquiry report suggested there was still a risk of him acting violently.

Sheriff Napier said that he was placing a huge amount of trust in Ladley by allowing him his freedom. Placing him on probation for three years, he ordered him to carry out 300 hours community service and to attend a course to help men who are violent towards women.

The sheriff also said that Ladley would need to address his issues with alcohol and any residual stress from being in the army, but suggested that might best be done in the community.

No flights till Thursday lunchtime

AIR SPACE around Shetland continues to be a “no-fly’ zone with all Loganair flights cancelled until at least 1pm on Thursday.

A decision on whether the Scottish airline will be able to operate flights later in the day will be taken first thing in the morning.

Meanwhile the council’s chief emergency planner John Taylor said on Wednesday afternoon that the islands continued to cope “reasonably well” after seven days of almost no air traffic.

NorthLink’s shuttle service between Lerwick and Aberdeen commenced yesterday morning and is expected to continue until the weekend when the second vessel Hjaltland will be back in service.

Loganair’s commercial director Jonathan Hinkles said: "Loganair regrets to advise that all scheduled services until at least 1pm on Thursday have now been cancelled.

“The continued presence of significant levels of volcanic ash in many parts of Scottish airspace - including 'no-fly' zones ordered by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which now cover Stornoway, Shetland and Orkney - and the forecast for tomorrow shows no material change for Loganair's operations.”

Following another meeting of the Shetland emergency planning forum on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Taylor said that all services were working together to best alleviate the present situation.

He said the shuttle service provided by NorthLink had made a big difference as people were again starting to move.

“There are no serious problems within Shetland, in that patients are getting away for hospital, and all the agencies within the forum are having preparations in place to deal with minor irritations.

“She should be able to maintain a reasonable service throughout this incident. We are not concerned, because there is nothing that is life threatening.

“NorthLink are pulling out the stops to try to make up for the capacity lost in the air service.”

He called on everybody with concerns to contact their normal service provider be it the council, the health board or other.

Ends

 

SSE furious about planning decision

POWER giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has slammed Shetland Islands Council for allowing a planning hearing to go ahead without representatives from the company, who were unable to attend the meeting due to the ongoing flight disruptions.

On Wednesday, the council's planning board decided to defer a decision on whether to grant planning permission in principle for a 14 hectare development, at Kergord, to site an electricity converter station for the proposed 540 megawatt Viking Energy wind farm.

The board meeting was addressed by four objectors to the application, but no one from Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Ltd (SHETL), an SSE subsidiary, had made it to Shetland for the hearing to speak in favour of the application.

Prior to discussing the application the eight members of the planning board briefly discussed whether it was right to go ahead without SHETL.

Iris Hawkins was the only councillor to voice some concern. She said the hearing system demanded that both sides should have the chance to address board members.

But chairman Frank Robertson ruled that the application should be discussed "in the circumstances".

An SSE spokesperson SSE said on Wednesday afternoon: "We understand that the hearing has taken place this morning and are extremely disappointed with SIC's decision to go ahead without SHETL being represented.

"We did not receive reasonable notice of this hearing and expressed concern to SIC about the timing, combined with the current travel situation.

"Given that the hearing has now taken place we believe our position in this matter has been severely prejudiced and are now considering our options."

Last night Mr Robertson defended his decision and said that all the information required for a decision to be made had been presented to councillors.

He said he was comfortable with his own conduct at the meeting and added that a precedent could have been set had the meeting been postponed.

"If we postpone a meeting for one company we are in danger of being required to postpone whenever some person is unable to attend a meeting, be it an applicant or an objector.

"In consultation with the head of planning, I therefore felt there were no legal reasons why we could not consider the matter."

He said that application had not been turned down, but deferred as recommended by planning officials, and this was known to SHETL.

The planning department said last night that invitations to the meeting had gone out on Friday.

However, with the flight cancellations and subsequent delays in postal deliveries, it could have taken some time for the invitation to reach SHETL's offices in Perth.