Notices - Send your notices to advertising@shetnews.co.uk

Notices

Adverts

Showcases

Showcase - Malakoff - staying ahead of the game

Features

Scottish Independence Debate

Resources

Main Stories

Total deals signed in Aberdeen

SHETLAND has lost out to Aberdeen for the signing ceremony for the new Total gas development west of the isles.

UK energy minister Lord Hunt had been booked to fly to Shetland on Thursday to sign the Laggan-Tormore Field Development Plan in Lerwick.

However Shetland Islands Council took longer than expected to finalise a deal on the lease of land at Sullom Voe with the oil company Total, who are developing the £2.5 billion gas field in 600 metres of water 90 miles west of the islands.

The council sat down at 10am on Tuesday morning and only completed the meeting after two adjournments at 5.30pm on Thursday, with last minute negotiations between lawyers for both sides being carried out via mobile phone right up to the very last minute.

Observers had expected Lord Hunt’s visit to be re-arranged for next week, but such is the urgency behind getting this project off the ground, the signing ceremony was shifted to Aberdeen yesterday (Friday) where business secretary Lord Mandelson was paying a visit.

Total yesterday confirmed they had bought out Chevron’s 10 per cent stake in the field as well as the 20 per cent interest held by ENI UK Ltd, bringing Total’s share up to 80 per cent, with DONG E&P (UK) Ltd holding the remaining 20 per cent.

The Laggan-Tormore fields contain 230 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe), with peak gas production expected to reach 500 million standards cubic feet per day, along with condensates.

Construction work on the fields and the processing plant is expected to start “almost immediately” with first gas planned for mid 2014.

Shetland Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness expressed his delight at a deal being reached with Total.

“This is a significant decision for Shetland and I am delighted that the council was able to conclude this matter at their meeting on 18 March 2010.  I am confident that the agreement represents the best possible outcome for Shetland,” he said.

“Securing the gas plant on land means that Shetland as a whole, and the north mainland in particular, will benefit from new jobs. Shetland is starting to see signs of the recession, and this new facility will bring welcome jobs in the construction sector, as well as in the operation of the plant and ancillary services.

“I also hope it can be the start of breathing new life into the future of Sullom Voe Terminal and secure Shetland’s position as a key player in the energy industry for years to come. The facility provides a new source of jobs and opportunities for our young people, to give them confidence to make Shetland their home.”

Regarding the negotiations themselves, Mr Cluness continued: “The negotiation process was intense and prolonged over a period of time. That is nothing less than we expected.

“I would wish to convey my thanks to the council’s negotiating team, who worked hard to secure the best possible outcome, taking account of all the risks and benefits associated with this project.

“I welcome the opportunity to work with TOTAL E&P UK Limited to develop this exciting project, which I hope represents the opening of a highway into the next stage of North Sea exploration and production.”

The terms of the agreement contain commercially sensitive information and therefore the council cannot make that public, at this stage.

Lord Mandelson said: "The announcement today that this £2.5 billion investment is going ahead is a major win for the Shetlands, for Scotland and for the UK.

"The new investment will involve a new gas processing terminal which will create up to 500 jobs in the Shetland during construction and the project overall will support about 2,100 UK jobs during its lifetime.

"It will be a major technical challenge developing the deepest gas fields to date on the UK continental shelf, Laggan and Tormore. I congratulate everyone involved for their hard work and for bringing on stream this very ambitious and worthwhile project.

"The recent initiative by the Treasury in extending Field Allowance to such fields has been particularly important. I wish Total every success."

Speaking about TOTAL’s decision to launch the development, and the government’s approval of the plan, Total managing director Roland Festor said: “Developing Laggan-Tormore in 600 metres of water in the harshest environment on the UKCS will demand an investment of some £2.5 billion and the decision to proceed had to be carefully considered by Total and our joint venture partner, DONG E&P (UK).

“Despite its complexity and the risks associated with the environment, the decision to make this groundbreaking project happen underlines our ongoing commitment to pursuing our investments on the UKCS and helping to secure domestic energy supplies for the United Kingdom.”

Lord Hunt said: "This is a huge step forward for the wider development of the west of Shetland area which still contains about a fifth of the UK's oil and gas reserves.

"As we make the transition to a low carbon future, we must ensure we have secure energy supplies by making the best use of our indigenous energy through projects like Laggan and Tormore."

Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy said: "This news is a major boost for one of Scotland and the UK's most vital industries. Our North Sea workforce is one of the most accomplished and respected in the world and the hostile environment they will face in the
deep waters west of Shetland should remind us of the dedicated contribution they make to our economy and energy security."




BT leapfrogs SIC on Vidlin broadband

A SMALL Shetland village is to benefit from much improved broadband speed thanks to a joint investment by British Telecom and the Scottish government.

Yesterday (Friday), people in Vidlin learned that their remote telephone exchange is to be upgraded to full platform ASDL broadband increasing its speed from 0.5 Mb to 8Mb before the end of the year.

The announcement comes just months after Shetland Islands Council invested the lion share of £100,000 into a pilot project giving the village wireless broadband of up 2Mb.

The local authority stepped in after local people had spent years unsuccessfully lobbying for better broadband provision.

Yesterday, SIC development officer Marvin Smith said public money could have been spent in a better way had BT told them of their plans.

"I am delighted to hear that Vidlin is being upgraded. The SIC wants to see as many exchanges being improved as possible,” Mr Smith said.

"It is increasingly frustrating that BT don't let us know beforehand what they are going to do, so that we can work around that.

"If we had known that Vidlin was to be upgraded than we would have taken our pilot project to Northmavine or another area and run it there, and more people in Shetland would have benefitted from better broadband.”

The council's telecommunication team is presently finalising plans to invest £1.2 million into a new fibre optic cable that will link Lerwick with Faroe’s subsea cable that crosses Shetland between Maywick and Sandwick.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said: "The slow broadband connection speeds offered at the Vidlin exchange have been the cause for considerable frustration for some time.

"This is something I have raised with BT a number of times and indeed I persuaded them to come to Vidlin to hold a public meeting to look at the issue. The confirmation that it is at last to be upgraded will therefore be welcome."

BT and the Scottish government are working together to enhance a further 80 exchanges across rural Scotland, including Lismore, in Argyll and Bute, which was also announced yesterday.

BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: "Both upgrades have been extremely challenging for BT, involving a huge amount of planning, negotiations over the acquisition of land and the creation of new radio transmission links at both sites, so it's great to see all the effort pay off for the people of Vidlin and Lismore."

Enterprise minister Jim Mather added: "The Scottish government is working with BT to improve Scotland's broadband infrastructure. We want to see more people in rural areas - including the business community - enjoy the benefits of being connected."


 

Trust helps groups bridge funding gap

Bressay residents will soon see work start on the island's first ever sports pitch thanks to a new £500,000 bridging loan scheme agreed by
Shetland Charitable Trust yesterday (Thursday).

Bressay Sports Club is one of two local community groups which hope to be the first to access the new scheme, set up to help organisations that have received funding from the government's Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP).

SRDP funding is only released once the work has been done and paid for. However most community groups do not have the cash to pay contractors up front, and therefore have to borrow money from banks at enormous cost to themselves.

Now the charitable trust is offering to lend money to help bridge this funding gap, saving community groups large sums in interest payments.

The trust has set aside £500,000 for groups to borrow over a period of up to six months at no cost.

The scheme won general support from trustees yesterday, with trustees
Jonathan Wills and John Scott finding no backers for their motion that a minimal interest of 0.25 per cent above the current base rate of 0.5 per cent should be charged.

Mr Scott then asked what the cost in lost profit was as the £500,000 had to come out of the trust's investment portfolio.

He was told that the cost in lost interest was just £312 a month as the funds needed to be held in a short term deposit.

Mr Scott asked for a report in a year's time to establish the overall cost
of the pilot scheme.

Bressay Sports Club has been working towards having a sports pitch for the island for the past 10 years. Now they have been offered £127,000 from SRDP towards the £300,000 cost of improving rough ground at Fullaburn.

The rest of the funding has come from Shetland Islands Council and the
government's Cashback for Communities scheme, as well as local fund raising.

Bressay Sports Club chairman Kenny Groat said: "We found out that SRDP wouldn't give us any money until they had the receipts in their hand, so we would have had to go to a bank and that would have cost us a lot of money.

"This bridging loan from the charitable trust will enable us to get on with
the project without incurring any extra cost."

Ollaberry Public Hall has also been offered funding from SRDP, while public halls in Sandness, Fair Isle and North Unst, as well as Burravoe and District Development Group have submitted applications ranging from £137,806 to £208,771.

Trust chairman Bill Manson said: "Shetland Charitable Trust has many years experience providing bridging finance to crofters and common grazings committees.

"We are delighted to be able to use Shetland's community funds to help community groups with their cash flow to make sure they can achieve their aspirations at minimum extra cost to them and to the trust. That's the sort of thing this money is for."


 

Belt tightening for SIC development

PROMOTING Shetland to the wider world will play a significantly larger role in the work of the council's economic development unit after a major belt tightening and re-adjustment exercise was approved by councillors yesterday (Thursday).

The department has just slashed its annual budget by almost 25 per cent to £7.4 million, but increased the monies allocated for marketing and promoting the isles by 31 per cent to £478,250, and to events by 16 per cent to £280,970.

Councillors were in agreement that promotion was "one of the most important mechanisms for putting Shetland on the map".

The meeting of the development committee agreed to reduce the budget for support to the fisheries and aquaculture industries by 16 per cent to £3.6 million; for tourism and heritage by 59 per cent to around £580,000; agriculture by 44 per cent to £485,000; and help for general industry by 25 per cent to £797,000.

The telecommunication and creative industries budget was slashed by 40 per cent; energy by 28 per cent; people and community by 12 per cent; and business guidance and engagement, which includes consultant fees by 67 per cent.

Councillors heard that 32 per cent of the overall budget for economic development was committed towards core funding for the NAFC marine Centre, Shetland Seafood Quality Control, Shetland Amenity Trust, COPE and a number of other organisations.

Committee vice chairman Alastair Cooper said that in times of tightening local government budgets, a non statutory element such as economic development would always be under additional pressure.

"We have to be more aggressive to push the private sector to be creative and employ people," he said, adding that should private enterprise come up with great ideas he would not rule out finding extra funding from the council's reserves.

Councillor Jonathan Wills said: "The public now accepts that the SIC has to make savings. The sky will not fall in. Our economic development is still the envy of most local authorities.”

Lerwick north councillor Allan Wishart added: "We will be left behind if we do not do proper promoting. As councillor Wills said, times are tough, but the sky will not fall in."

 

Trust helps bail out museum overspend

THE CONSTRUCTION bill for the new £12 million Shetland Museum and Archives has come in over budget by £166,000, it emerged yesterday (Thursday).

The museum's main funder, Shetland Charitable Trust, yesterday agreed to pay £83,265, half of the remaining bill.

An attempt by trustee Allison Duncan to refuse any payment towards the additional costs fell after he failed to find a seconder.

The charitable trust paid £5.9 million (50.1 per cent) towards the cost of building the award-winning museum, at Lerwick’s historic Hay's Dock, which has far exceeded visitor forecasts since it was opened by the Prince of Wales in May 2007

Yesterday trustees agreed to pay 50.1 per cent of the overspend, leaving the building’s owner and operator Shetland Amenity Trust to find the remainder of the cash.

The meeting heard that this mean the charitable trust only had to spend an extra £14,800, as the amenity trust had retained £68,385 already provided as cash flow.

Trustees were keen to point out that the final overspend represented just 1.4 per cent of the overall project cost.

Shetland Museum and Archive was the last project in the charitable trust's own capital programme, which came to an end in 2002 when it became clear that the trust could not afford to carry on funding major projects.

Other capital projects funded through the trust are the Market House volunteer centre and the new sporting facilities built at Lerwick’s Clickimin Leisure Complex to enable Shetland to host the 2005 Island Games, including squash courts.

Hjaltland housing budget slashed

SHETLAND’S main provider of affordable housing will have to reduce the number of properties they construct next year by two thirds, thanks to drastic savings imposed by the Scottish government.

Hjaltland Housing Association say they are expecting their government grant to be reduced from £3.7 million to around £2 million.

Property services manager Bryan Leask said this would mean that they would only be able to build a maximum of 20 houses in the coming financial year, as opposed to the 60 they had been hoping for.

Mr Leask said Shetland had fared worse than other local authorities which are also facing cuts, as the islands authority was one of the few who lost funding last year.

“The thing that concerns me is that we started from a low base and got an effective cut last year when most other associations got an increase. On top of that they are giving us another 50 per cent cut this coming year,” Mr Leask said.

He said that the government had to be reminded of Shetland’s housing needs with a constantly rising waiting list. Shetland Islands Council has pledged to spend £20 million over five years on housing from its reserves, but has also lost out on the last two rounds of government funding.

“I think the government has to put its hand in its pocket at some time. Questions need to be asked of the government in terms of not to forget Shetland, we are her and we need that money as well,” Mr Leask said.

The situation has been made worse for associations outside Edinburgh and Glasgow, who are taking a greater share of this year’s overall budget thanks to a three year contract the government.

Hjaltland is able to keep going partly through an interest free bridging facility with the SIC. “That’s been fantastic for us. We wouldn’t have been able to carry on with the development programme we have been doing over the last couple of years if it hadn’t been for that situation,” Mr Leask said.

That facility will be much needed as the government’s £2 million will be insufficient to pay for construction work which Hjaltland already has on site for the next 12 months.

Mr Leask said: “If we want to start building anything new, and we have proposals for Cullivoe, Eshaness and the Baptist church in Lerwick we will be relying even more on the bridging facility from the council.”

The bridging loans are underwritten by guarantees from the government for future funding.

In brief – 18 March, 2010

Bid go big

Shetland band Fiddlers’ Bid are about to embark on one of their largest ever UK tours to celebrate their new award winning album.

The All Dressed in Yellow Tour begins in the Sage, Gateshead on 1 April before taking in Hawick, Inverness, Keswick, Islay, Giffnock nr. Glasgow, Stirling, Perth and Aberdeen before rounding off in the Queen’s Hall Edinburgh on Sunday 11 April.

Band member Chris Stout said: “We are really excited to be out on tour again, never more so following the success of our new album. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to it and now we’re looking forward to performing the music to audiences around the country in April.”

Full information on how to obtain tickets is available on line from all the venues, together with the Fiddlers Bid website at www.fiddlersbid.com and Atlantic Edge Music at www.atlanticedgemusic.com

 

StAnza 2010

THREE Shetland poets will be taking part in the world renowned StAnza poetry festival, in St Andrews this month.

The sold out event, which features Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, will also see performances from Christine de Luca, Lise Sinclair and Christie Williamson.

Also appearing at the festival will be Shetland resident Jen Hadfield, whose second collection Nigh No Place won the TS Eliot Prize in 2008. She will give two readings on Sunday 21March at 11.30am in St Mary’s Hall and at 2.15pm in the Undercroft.

More information is available at www.stanzapoetry.org

 

MSP praises peatland project

HIGHLANDS and islands MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed a decision by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to base a major inquiry into the importance of peatlands in Scotland.

The IUCN, which is made up of governments, environmental groups and scientists, has said that Scotland’s peatlands are as important as the South American  rainforests in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

The organisation said that if the Scottish government invested in restoring and expanding 600,000 hectares of peatland a year, they could remove 2.4 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere by 2015, saving £47 million in carbon damage.

The IUCN is working with Scottish Natural Heritage on raising awareness about the importance of peat with its UK Peatland Programme and Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands.


Good news from Brussels?

MEPS yesterday talked up the outcome of a meeting of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, saying it spelt good news for the Scottish industry.

Two key reports were passed after a three hour voting session, which included measures to link Less Favoured Area payments to active farming; to protect rural development budgets; and to acknowledge handicaps in remote areas.

The Ashworth report agreed an amnesty for three years on cross compliance penalties under the controversial new electronic identification (EID) regulations. The vote went through despite a breakdown in the Parliament’s electronic voting system.






Second Sunrise crewman in hospital

A FRASERBURGH fishing boat was forced to call in at Lerwick harbour for the second time this week when it delivered an injured fisherman for medical treatment this morning (Thursday).

The Sunrise was fishing 50 miles north north east of Shetland when the crewman was struck in the chest by a heavy object around 11.30pm last night.

The boat arrived at Lerwick around 4.40am where it was met by a waiting ambulance and coastguard rescue team, who took the man to Gilbert Bain Hospital where his condition was described as stable.

The vessel had been in Lerwick just 48 hours earlier after a crewman became ill while fishing around 60 miles east of Shetland on Monday night. He was taken to hospital and also described as stable.

Minister agrees to consult on ferries

SCOTTISH transport minister Stewart Stevenson is to ask islanders to help him find alternative ways of saving money on the NorthLink lifeline ferry service to Shetland and Orkney.

His request comes a week after he announced that the two ferries Hrossey and Hjaltland had to run on two of their four engines to save £1 million on the company's £10 million fuel bill. The move would have added one and a half hours to sailing times between Shetland, Orkney and Aberdeen.

The minister had also indicated that changes to the winter timetable were likely, leading to speculation that the service could be reduced to one vessel.

The lack of consultation was met with anger and disbelief in the isles.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the two northern isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur met with Mr Stevenson to persuade him to re-consider his plans.

The minister insisted on the need to save £1 million, but said he would be happy to hear alternative proposals from the community for cutting costs.

A government spokeswoman said: "The minister had a very helpful and constructive discussion with Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur.

"Consultations will go ahead with the Shetland and Orkney communities to identify efficiencies which will help meet today's challenging financial constraints, while continuing to provide an appropriate level of service provision."

Mr Scott said: "On the positive side, the minister has accepted that he was wrong to try to impose these changes without any consultation. He has taken a step back and put his proposals on the table, inviting others to offer alternatives.

"But he is still determined to make a cost saving of around £1 million per annum. He is still going to leave us with very unpalatable choices.

"There is no certainty that a solution which is even close to acceptable in Orkney and Shetland can be found."

Mr McArthur added: "Despite the agreement to consult and to look at alternatives, the minister is hell-bent on saving money. Thus, in effect, he wants to make Orkney and Shetland pay for his saving, either through suffering a reduced service, or by paying still higher fares, or maybe some combination of the two.

"He is imposing this on the northern isles while he is maintaining the funding for his cheap ferry fare 'pilot' scheme on the ferry services to the western isles."

Shetland’s external transport forum meets on Friday morning to discuss the impact of the changes on the island community and to consider its response to the Edinburgh government.

 

Textile museum moves to Lerwick

SHETLAND Textile Working Museum is moving temporarily to Lerwick, where it will be based at the Böd of Gremista from 1 May this year.

The museum has been without a home since 2006, when its lease expired at the Weisdale Mill.

Since then the Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers who manage the museum have been working with Shetland Amenity Trust to create a new home at Voe House, in Walls.

However the demand expected in Hamefarin 2010 has made the guild look at a temporary home for this year.

The 18th century Gremista fishing böd was the birthplace of Arthur Anderson, and the story of the building and the man will be told in a restored kitchen and bedroom furnished with original artefacts and a custodian on hand to interpret for visitors.

The textile museum will occupy the remainder of the building, with an activities room on the ground floor, their annual exhibition on the first floor and storage and offices on the top floor.

The textile museum always hosts a themed exhibition each year and this year’s topic is changes in fashion, including knitted Shetland textiles from the 19th century right to the present day, with new pieces commissioned specially.

Items on show will demonstrate Shetland’s traditional heritage through knitted garments and accessories, showing how fashions have changed over the years.

Museum trustees chairman Frank Robertson said: “As well as our annual exhibition, we are planning a programme of textile demonstrations - knitting and spinning, which we hope will encourage others to join in and learn the skills for which Shetland is famous.”

Isles NHS defends its negligence record

NHS SHETLAND has strongly defended its record on clinical negligence claims after coming under fire from Highland and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon.

Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for health Mary Scanlon called on NHS Shetland yesterday (Wednesday) to "learn from errors" and "re-assess the way in which they deal with such claims".

Mrs Scanlon claimed NHS Shetland was not acting in the best interest of its patients as clinical negligence payment at the health board had risen from £17,000 in 2005/06 to £77,000 in 2008/09.

But NHS Shetland chief executive Sandra Laurenson said Mrs Scanlon's interpretation of figures released by Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon was flawed.

Mrs Laurenson said NHS Shetland had not paid out £77,000 in negligence claims in 2008/09, but had contributed this amount to the Clinical Negligence and Other Risks Indemnity Scheme (CNORIS), a risk insurance scheme that all Scottish health boards pay into.

She also denied that NHS Shetland had five ongoing clinical negligence claims dating back 14 years, saying there was only one. The other four claims dated back to 2008 and 2009.

Mrs Scanlon said: "Currently NHS Shetland has five ongoing clinical negligence claims dating back to 1996.  Not only do such lengthy claims cost the tax payer thousands of pounds in legal fees, it also causes uncertainly and anxiety for claimants.

"Moreover it becomes increasingly unclear when a claim such as this, spanning 14 years, will be resolved and the case closed.

"Across Scotland clinical negligence payments have increased from £9,080,839 in 2004-05 to £27,028,278 in 2008-09. In NHS Shetland in 2008-09 over £77,000 was paid out in clinical negligence claims, compared to 2005-06 when less than £17,000 was paid out.

"Vast amounts of money being paid out on clinical negligence claims which date back many years are not in the patients best interests and NHS Shetland need to re-assess the way in which they deal with such claims.

"I would also hope that measures are put in place to learn from errors and ensure trust and confidence in our NHS system."

Last night, Ms Laurenson said: "NHS Shetland is not different from other NHS boards in Scotland. The increase in payments is into the CNORIS scheme as opposed to direct payouts to claimants.

"Our average time of resolving claims is similar to the rest of Scotland and, for the sake of clarity, we not have five cases that are outstanding since 1996."

She added: "If something has gone wrong for a patient and they are seeking legal recourse to redress that situation then that is always an issue of great concern. We would always look into that to understand what lessons need to be learned and what needs to be done differently in the future."

A spokeswoman said last night that Mrs Scanlon had no reason to believe that the information she received through answers to parliamentary question were incorrect and was standing by her comments.

Total deal agreed

COUNCILLORS in Shetland last night (Thursday) cleared the way for a new dawn in

Britain's energy future by agreeing a deal on the lease of land at Sullom

Voe with French oil and gas giant Total.

Total will start work on building a new processing plant to handle gas to be piped in from the Laggan/Tormore field 75 miles west of Shetland before being exported to the Scottish mainland at St Fergus via the Frigg pipeline.

Talks with Shetland Islands Council on a lease of the land began on Tuesday morning and only ended at 5.30pm yesterday afternoon (Thursday). The lease agreement will be tied to the amount and the price of gas that flows through the islands.

SIC convener Sandy Cluness said the Total gas plant would inject £200 million into the islands' economy over the next 30 years, providing 1,000 construction jobs and up to 70 permanent jobs after production starts in 2014.

Mr Cluness said: "This is probably the most important development for Shetland since the arrival of oil at Sullom Voe terminal more than 30 years ago. It has been calculated that the new plant will be worth £200 million to the islands over the period.

"It's taken so long to agree because it is a long term lease and there are so many conditions in terms of the environment and employment and other things. Total have been very supportive throughout this process and they are keen to come here, so it is a good deal all round.

"I am very relieved because it has taken some time to reach this point, but I have to pay tribute to Total because these have been good negotiations."

Shetland North councillor Alastair Cooper has been working with the council dealing with the oil industry for the past 30 years. He said the agreement was of great significance for the islands' economy.

"This means a great deal to Shetland. It provides a new income stream for the local authority, it provides confidence for the young folk in Shetland in that we have up to 70 jobs in the area for the next 30 or 40 years."

He said that the new plant would help the existing oil terminal at Sullom Voe by sharing costs, helping that complex to become more viable as oil throughput from the North Sea continues to decline.

More importantly for the council it will help them deal with tightening government budgets during the current recession, which have already seen them looking for substantial savings in the coming year.

There are also other developers opening up smaller fields to the west of Shetland which will be able to use Total's pipeline to export their gas.

"This is the highway that we needed out to the west of Shetland to give access to other fields which we believe are out there waiting to be opened up,” Mr Cooper said.

The UK government must now sanction the development with a signing ceremony expected to take place in Lerwick shortly.

UK energy minister Lord Hunt had been due in Shetland yesterday, but his visit was postponed until the council reached an agreement with the oil company.

Standards Commission are back

THE STANDARDS Commission for Scotland is in Shetland for the second week in a row investigating complaints against two more councillors.

Two members of the public have submitted a complaint against Lerwick North councillor Caroline Miller after it was revealed that she accepted rental payments for her husband’s knitwear company Judane (Shetland) Ltd, which owed money to Shetland Development Trust.

Another three people have submitted complaints about Shetland West councillor Gary Robinson regarding comments he made about a confidential legal agreement between Judane and Shetland Islands Council.

Mrs Miller is an unpaid consultant to Judane, who last year owed around £600,000 to the Shetland Development Trust. In December the council agreed to settle for just under £200,000 in return for the company dropping a claim for £2.3 million damages to their business after a planning decision in 2005 that was later overturned.

At the time of the agreement it emerged that Mrs Miller’s company Northern Isles Knitwear had accepted rent on behalf of Judane from budget retailer Chris Hodge after she had been elected as a councillor in 2007.

The revelation led to much speculation, with calls from both Mr Hodge and councillor Robinson for an investigation into the company’s financial affairs.

It also led directly to the two complaints about councillor Miller to the Standards Commission, even though shortly afterwards it came out that the rental payments were used to pay off Judane’s development trust loan.

Subsequently two complaints were made against councillor Robinson about his public comments relating to the confidential agreement between the SIC and Judane.

Last week investigating officers from the Standards Commission were in Shetland looking into a complaint against Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills by SIC convener Sandy Cluness, vice convener Josie Simpson, former chief executive David Clark, acting chief executive Hazel Sutherland and chief lawyer Jan Riise.

Dr Wills had to answer questions about why he publicly condemned an internal council investigation carried out into complaints he made against Mr Clark for allegedly threatening him with violence over the phone last September.

In brief – 17 March 2010

Transparent pay offs

A LOCAL authority watchdog has voiced its concern over the amount of money being paid out when councils part company with their chief executives.

The Audit Commission, which polices councils in England, said yesterday (Tuesday) that not all severance deals investigated had been justified and called for more transparency in the process.

During the last 33 months, 37 council chief executives in England agreed severance packages totalling £9.5 million, an average of just over £250,000.

The commission said: “Severance deals can be in the interests of the council and the taxpayer. But our research shows that not all such deals are justified, that competent chief executives have sometimes lost their jobs needlessly, and that less effective individuals have been paid-off rather than dismissed.

“The Commission wants all deals to be more transparent. They should be reviewed by scrutiny or remuneration committees, with details published shortly after they are agreed.”

 

Ferry fury

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott is to challenge transport minister Stewart Stevenson this afternoon (Wednesday) on his plans to change the timetable of Shetland’s lifeline ferry service to Aberdeen.

Mr Scott said last night: “I have received many representations opposing the proposed changes to the timetable, both from individual islanders and from businesses. It is clear that the proposed earlier sailing times for the services that run through Orkney will cause significant problems if they are imposed.

“Equally, the threat to leave us with a single passenger vessel service in winter is the cause of serious concern. At the meeting I will make clear to the minister the strength of opposition to the government’s proposals.

“I will also inform him of the anger in Shetland at the government’s attempt to impose these changes without consultation. I will urge him to think again and to step back from imposing these damaging changes.”

 

Care information

PEOPLE in need of care should find the information they require easier in future, thanks to a new information service.

Care Information Scotland (CIS) offers a single point of contact through one phone number - 08456 001 001 - and one web address at www.careinfoscotland.co.uk

The system gives detailed information on the range of community care services available from local authorities, the private and voluntary sector.

Lerwick south councillor Cecil Smith said: “From now on, older people in Shetland, their friends and family, can easily get accurate information on what services are available and how they can get access to them.

“Locally we have been working hard to make services accessible directly to people with support needs and I'm sure Care Information Scotland will prove to be very useful for older people and their families across Shetland."

In brief – 16 March, 2010

Blunt instrument

NORTHERN isles MP Alistair Carmichael has come out in support of farmers and crofters hit by unexpectedly high penalty payments for non-compliance with European regulations.

Stockholders who submitted incorrect paperwork last year found themselves losing three per cent of their single farm payments, rather than one per cent as was previously the case.

The moves have been criticised by the National Farmers Union who are considering legal action against the retrospective increase in penalties.

Mr Carmichael said the penalties were also disproportionate to the level of offence. “The present penalty system is a blunt instrument which fails to distinguish between serious breaches and minor errors,” he said.

NorthLink talks this week

TALKS on how to minimise the impact of the Scottish government’s attempts to save money on the NorthLink ferry service will be discussed in Orkney and Shetland this week.

Shetland Islands Council, Orkney Islands Council and the transport partnerships ZetTrans and HiTrans will meet with the ferry company and Scottish government officials in Kirkwall tomorrow (Wednesday).

The move follows last week’s shock announcement that the government intend to save £1 million on the NorthLink service between Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen by forcing the two ferries Hjaltland and Hrossey to run on two rather than four engines, cutting fuel costs.

NorthLink say the move will only add an extra hour to journeys between the three ports, leaving direct runs between Lerwick and Aberdeen unaffected.

However the government said that they also intend to consult on further “efficiencies” during the winter months, interpreted generally as reducing the service to a single ferry in the low season.

The announcement was met by an outcry in the isles, especially as it came out of the blue with no consultation.

SIC infrastructure committee chairwoman Iris Hawkins and ZetTrans transport development manager Ken Duerden will be in Orkney for tomorrow’s meeting.

A special meeting of the SIC’s external transport forum has been arranged for this Friday to report on the outcome of the meeting to the wide range of stakeholders who will be hit by the changes to the service.

Council cuts to hit industry

SHETLAND’S local economy is set to take a direct hit from cuts in local government spending during the next financial year.

Councillors will today (Tuesday) discuss proposals to slash Shetland Islands Council’s economic development budget by £2.5 million, with the biggest impact being felt by the tourism industry.

The SIC’s development committee is being asked to accept a 24.6 per cent cut in its budget from almost £10 million to just under £7.5 million

The savagery of these cuts will be eased by an extra £1 million expected to be carried forward from this year. An administrative mechanism could also allow extra money to be allocated on the basis of expected underspending.

Almost one third of the budget is spent on core funding for organisations such as NAFC Marine Centre, Shetland Seafood Quality Control, the Shetland Shellfish Management Order, Shetland Amenity Trust, social enterprise COPE and Shetland College’s outreach service.

Fisheries and aquaculture will see a 16 per cent cut, with just £1.2 million available for loan and commercial funding. General industry faces a 25 per cent cut down to £797,000, of which £175,000 is already allocated for projects including the Fetlar pier, the new abattoir and the fibre optic cable.

Agriculture is looking at a 40 per cent reduction to just £485,000, but tourism is worst hit with a 59 per cent fall from £1.4 million to £580,000, of which three quarters are already earmarked for projects including the Sumburgh Head development, Scalloway museum, Old Scatness, Fetlar’s Brough Lodge and Sandwick’s Sandsayre pier.

Marketing and promotion is down 31 per cent, general industries have fallen by 40 per cent and the energy budget is reduced by 28 per cent. Events including the 2010 Hamefarin, 2011 Tall Ships Race and the food festival are going to lose 16 per cent.

Total deal postponed

A DEAL between French oil and gas giant Total and Shetland Islands Council on importing the first gas from the new fields being discovered west of Shetland has been postponed.

Both sides had planned to hold a signing ceremony with UK energy minister Lord Hunt in Lerwick on Thursday.

However that event has been postponed after councillors in Shetland failed to reach an agreement on a settlement with the company.

The SIC is understood to be looking for a rent agreement and is hoping for a royalty on the gas that will be piped from the £2 billion Laggan/Tormore gas development 75 miles west of Shetland to a new gas processing plant next to the existing Sullom Voe oil terminal and then on to St Fergus.

Councillors met for three hours in private with officials and their legal advisers this morning (Tuesday), but adjourned the meeting having failed to agree with what the oil company had put on the table.

Lawyers for both sides will continue negotiations over the next few days to resolve various outstanding issues in the hope that a new signing ceremony can be set up in the very near future.

Total want to start work on constructing the £500 million gas plant next month and the UK government is desperate to shore up the country’s energy security with any available gas supplies. Production is scheduled to start in 2014.

Meanwhile the council is looking to boost its own coffers to replace the declining oil funds from Sullom Voe terminal, which are forcing it to impose cuts in service that are unwelcome in a community which has enjoyed considerable wealth for the past 30 years.

“Lego brick” school arrives by sea

MORE THAN two dozen container sized class room modules, part of the new £8.75 million Mid Yell School, are set to arrive on board the cargo vessel Wilson Brest at Cullivoe Pier later this week.

The units have been pre-fabricated in the town of Logstor by Danish contractor MT Hojgaard and are being shipped to Cullivoe by Tschudi Project Transports AS.

The Wilson Brest is due to arrive in Yell between late evening tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday morning. Unloading of the 26 modules is planned for Thursday.

A second cargo with a further 26 modules and additional equipment is due to arrive in Shetland on Thursday next week.

The transport by truck to the site of the new school in Mid Yell is due to take place between Thursday and the end of the month. Drivers have been warned to expect some delays on the island roads at that time.

Head of schools Helen Budge said last night that the Mid Yell school project was coming together as planned with a completion set for October this year.

"The project is coming together very nicely. The ground works are all ready for the modules to arrive this week and next week.

"We are very interested in how these modules do come together to create a school. It is certainly the first time that we have used this method in Shetland," she said.

The modules, which some commentators described as over-sized Lego bricks due to their place of origin, form the majority of the new junior high school.

They are pre-built units constructed to a level where windows, doors, internal finishes including floor coverings, lights, etc. are installed within the factory environment.

Once the modules are delivered to site, works will commence to connect the modules and complete the external landscaping and service works.

Tait found safe and well

POLICE in Shetland confirmed over night that they have found missing man Oliver Tait safe and well at an address in Lerwick.

Thirty eight year Mr Tait was reported missing over the weekend.

Officers have been looking for Mr Tait, of East Burrafirth, since 2pm on Saturday, when he was reported to be sporting a head injury and was wearing a blue parka style jacket emblazoned with the word Shetland.

This morning (Tuesday), a police spokesman said: “Once again the Lerwick Police were grateful for the level of information received and support provided by the local community, which contributed to a satisfactory outcome of the enquiry.”

In brief - 15 March, 2010

Lollie Graham tribute

A special evening to pay tribute to the life and work of the late Lollie Graham will be held by the Althing in the Tingwall School on Saturday 20 March starting at 7.30pm.

The main tribute will be given by Shetland archivist Brian Smith, while Jonathan Wills will speak about Lollie's work as a teacher and Drew Ratter will speak about his crofting interests.

Some of Lollie's poetry will be recited by Mary Blance and Laureen Johnson, there will be fiddle music provided by Ivor Smith and friends and Thelma Leslie and her friends will reflect on Lollie's interest in drama.

In addition there will be recordings of Lollie reciting the Vagaland poems 'Da Tree Isles' and 'Da Swan's Gaet'.

Silver for sole chef

VIDLIN student Daniel Callieu has won a silver medal at the national catering industry exhibition Hotelympia.

After winning an internal college competition, Daniel competed against student chefs from across the country to prepare Sole Marguery in front of high-profile industry judges and numerous visitors to Hotelympia.

Chef lecturer Gordon Lang said: “The standard of the eleven entrants was extremely high so Daniel was up against stiff competition. He was professional throughout and we are all very proud of his achievement.”

The competition brief was to produce a 'classical dish' using flat fish. Daniel made fillets of poached sole with a white wine garnish, shrimps and mussels.

 

Coppers seek copper thieves

SHETLAND police are looking for witnesses after the theft of a quantity of scrap copper and lead from outside a private house in Hoswick sometime during the last two weeks.

Anyone with any information can contact the police on 01595 692110.

 

Salmon exports leap

More than 13 million fresh salmon were exported from Scotland last year worth £220 million, an increase of 24 per cent on 2008, according to Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO).

The SSPO is confident of further growth with global demand strong, estimating the world’s has an appetite for an extra 190,000 tonnes of salmon this year – one and a half times the Scottish production.

SSPO chief executive Scott Landsburgh said: “Salmon is the largest food export from Scotland. It currently accounts for 55 per cent of the total value of food exports from Scotland, underpinning its increasing importance to the domestic economy.”





SIC starts search for new chief

COUNCILLORS in Shetland will get their first chance to discuss a replacement for former chief executive David Clark when they meet in private tomorrow (Tuesday).

Local authority umbrella group COSLA has proposed Shetland Islands Council consider taking on a temporary chief executive until the next election in two years.

The suggestion is to appoint an experienced official quickly rather than advertise for someone permanent to lead the council while it is investigated by local government watchdog Audit Scotland.

Some councillors have expressed disquiet that no steps appear to have been made to replace Mr Clark since he left office on 24 February with a tax free settlement of £250,000.

However convener Sandy Cluness said: “We are looking at all options at the present time in the hope of getting an experienced chief executive in position as soon as possible.”

Two names under consideration are Alan Campbell, who retired from Aberdeenshire Council in 2008 after 17 years as head of their paid service, and Arthur McCourt, who left the top job with Highland Council in 2007 after 12 years.

An experienced chief officer could provide stability while Audit Scotland starts its investigation this month into what went wrong when Mr Clark was at the helm at Lerwick Town Hall.

COSLA’s Improvement Service have also been invited to assist the council in the long term to get back on an even keel.

There are concerns in some quarters that a temporary chief executive might be employed part time, basing themselves on the mainland and only travelling to the islands for a few days each week.

The SIC has been left somewhat rudderless since Mr Clark left, saying his position had become “virtually impossible” following national media reports about his private life and the impact these may have had on his career prospects.

However the former business consultant has wasted no time getting back to work. Five days after signing the settlement with the SIC he re-launched the private company he ran prior to his move north.

In a statement on the Dalzell Projects website dated 2 March, Mr Clark states: “Having ended my venture into permanent public sector employment as Chief Executive of Shetland Islands Council, I am pleased to announce that as of 1st March 2010, dalzell projects is again actively trading.

“The 'phone has already been ringing and my first assignment back in the world of consultancy takes me back to London next week.

“I would like to thank Shetland Isalnds (sic) Council for the opportunity of being their Chief Executive. I consider it a priviledge (sic), and look forward to seeing the initiatives we began together bear fruit in the years to come. I wish SIC and the community my best wishes for the future.”

The company has slimmed down since he started working with the SIC on 1 June, when it listed as its partners his father Ian Clark, himself a former SIC chief executive; Andrew Laidler, a consultant he employed to carry out the planning review of Anderson High School; Paul Gatrill, a retired businessman; and mechanical engineer Simon Rae.

Now the only team member alongside him is his father, who staunchly defended his son in the local press, saying that he had been the victim of a concerted campaign.

Back in court

AN UNEMPLOYED Shetland teenager who was fined for assault last week was back in court yesterday (Monday) pleading guilty to the same charge.

Eighteen year old Daniel Ewan, of 25 Ladies Drive, Lerwick, admitted pushing a woman to the ground at a disco at Mid Yell public hall on Saturday night, when he appeared from custody at Lerwick Sheriff Court. Sheriff Philip Mann adjourned the case for reports.

Last Wednesday Sheriff Graeme Napier fined Ewan £500 and ordered him to pay £300 compensation after he pled guilty to assaulting two men in Lerwick last December. The sheriff then deferred the sentence for two weeks to allow him to come up with “a sensible proposal” for paying the fines.

A 17 year old man was also arrested on Saturday night at Mid Yell hall in an unrelated assault, which is the subject of a separate report to the procurator fiscal.

Police seek missing man

SHETLAND police are looking for a 38 year old man from Shetland’s west side who has not been seen since Saturday afternoon.

Oliver Tait, of East Burrafirth, near Aith, was last seen in Lerwick wearing a blue parka-style jacket with the word SHETLAND on it. He also had an injury to his head.

A police spokesman said they wished to speak to Mr Tait to confirm that he was fit and well.

Bank horror stories

SHETLAND’S Citizen Advice Bureau has backed calls from Westminster for Scotland’s banks to stop imposing unfair charges on customers.

The comments come as isles MP Alistair Carmichael requested people to inform him of any bad experiences they have had with their banks of late.

CAB manager Les Irving said that in recent years the banks had been taking advantage of the most vulnerable people in society.

“The number of clients who have contacted our office in Market House about financial problems has increased by over 40 per cent per cent over the last two years, and many of these have been victims of unfair banking policies,” he said.

In the last few weeks the Lerwick office has dealt with cases where huge bank charges have been imposed on people with tiny overdrafts, people already in debt have been offered high interest loans and those in debt have been “hassled quite aggressively”.

Mr Irving said: “These cases are not unusual. In fact they are quite common.

“In a recent Shetland case, a 62 year old man came to the bureau with regard to an  overdraft which he was having difficulty paying off.

“Due to him having to change his job he had a significant drop in his income. This resulted in him overdrawing at the bank and accruing additional charges of over £1,700.

“The bank then encouraged him to take an overdraft of £4,000 to cover these charges and other costs. Due to his limited income he currently has a payment plan of £40 per month.  He thinks that if the bank had not added the excessive charges his overdraft would have been much less, and he may have had some chance of paying back the overdraft before retirement.

“In a second case a woman’s ex-partner had obtained access to her account on several occasions and had repeatedly taken out money. This had resulted in a total of £2,597 of bank charges over a period of six months. During this time he had intercepted her mail and removed all letters and statements from the bank, so the client was unaware of the problem. The bank has been unwilling to refund the charges.”

These local cases helped informed the Scottish affairs report published on Wednesday, which said the banks must meet with CAB staff to discuss how to change their policies.

The report can be read at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmscotaf.htm#reports

Mr Carmichael can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.