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Tugmen vote for industrial action

Tirrick putting up the messenger on bow of the tanker Hanne Knutsen.TUGMEN at the oil port of Sullom Voe have overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action.

The 98 per cent ballot in favour of a strike is the latest chapter in an increasingly bitter dispute between employer Shetland Islands Council and the 48 men crewing the tugs.

The important oil port, which serves the BP operated Sullom Voe oil terminal, could be without tug cover as soon as by the end of this month, should last ditch attempts to resolve the dispute over staff reduction and terms and conditions fail.

The council is seeking to save money in a bid to maintain their income from the commercial operation as oil throughput declines.

In August, it opened a 90 day consultation on reducing the number of tugmen from 48 to 32, longer working hours and a new ‘on call’ system when crews are not on board.

Regional organiser for the union Unite, John Taylor, has now called on the council to withdraw the consultation paper, a document union members have described as an attempt to divide their unity, and return back to the negotiating table.

“98 per cent of our membership has voted for industrial action, and that could be anything from an overtime ban to strike action.

“We are still hopeful that we can get a resolution to the situation, but we could start some form of industrial action within the next two weeks,” Mr Taylor said.

It is now up to the local membership to decide what form of industrial action they want to take. A meeting among Unite members is due to take place later this week.

Local union members said last night (Tuesday) that they were delighted with the endorsement and expressed the hope that this mandate would lead to new talks with senior council managers, including the newly appointed director of infrastructure services Phil Crossland.

“If the council withdraws the consultation document that would open up a window of opportunity for common sense talks to take place,” one member said.

Union members were appalled by the content of the consultation paper which they say was “nothing more than a 90 day notice to terminate” the men’s contracts.

The 48 tugmen have all returned the document to the council saying they will not accept the new terms and conditions, which effectively leaves the port without tug cover as of 1 November.

The local union members have put forward their own proposals to reduce the number of people working on the tugs while maintaining a safe harbour, but feel they have not been listened to.

They say that apart from the new terms of conditions they take issue with a whole raft of topics such as port safety, the performance of the new tugs and the overall professionalism of the port operation.

The council’s chief negotiator Gordon Greenhill was not available for comment on Tuesday night, but the chairman of the harbour board, councillor Robert Henderson, said that as far as he was concerned negotiations between both sides had never been closed.

“I am sure that all the parties involved will be doing their level best to reach a negotiated settlement,” he said.

Cheaper fuel on its way

THE HIGHER than average petrol and diesel prices in the northern isles are set to be reduced by five pence per litre after the European Union approved a UK bid for a fuel duty derogation.

The long awaited decision by Brussels opens the way towards slightly fairer fuel prices.

The difference at the pumps between the central belt of Scotland and Shetland has been as high as 20p per litre over recent months.

The news was welcomed by isles MP Alistair Carmichael, who was one of the driving forces behind the initiative.

“This is the single most important step on the road towards reducing the cost of petrol and diesel in the isles.

“I am delighted that we have got this consent and hope that the remaining hoops will be a formality to jump through,” the government’s deputy chief whip said.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott added: “Last week, Shetland motorists endured a 4p rise in one day at some Island petrol stations. The difference between us and the mainland of Scotland is 20p.

“Alistair Carmichael deserves credit for pushing this derogation so hard in the UK Government and it will help.

“Shetland also needs a full inquiry into the monopoly that GB Fuels operates and the consequences of that on local prices. That is the next stage, and we need that action which recognises that the car is a necessity of life and not a luxury in the northern isles.”
 

In brief for 13 September 2011

Deep sea drilling

THE SCOTTISH Green Party have condemned the European Parliament for not adopting a moratorium on deep sea drilling in the wake of BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The parliament agreed that an EU-wide moratorium on new drilling would be disproportionate.

Patrick Harvie MSP said: "The European Parliament have simply failed to take account of the risk posed by deepwater drilling in Scotland's waters.

“Greens continue to argue for a moratorium on new drilling after BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster and Shell's leak in the North Sea this summer, but it looks as if MEPs have been persuaded by the oil lobbyists that the safety of their profits should come before the safety of the marine environment."

 

Dave’s take on the film festival

Dave Hammond of Skeld based film production company Burnt Candle has produced a 10 minute film on the recent Screenplay film festival.

The film can be seen at: www.burntcandle.tv/ScreenPlay2011/

 

Energy audit grants

THE FIRST two grants have been awarded under the Community Energy Efficient Programme (CEEP) to energy audit two public buildings.

The audits of the Germatwatt Centre (£711) and the Walls public hall (£917) will identify the most cost effective methods to reduce the energy consumption within the respective buildings.

Many more applications are expected over the coming months as there has been a high enquiry rate in the first 6 months of the two-year pilot programme, a spokeswopman for Community Energy Scotland said.

Jennifer Nicolson added: “Following the introduction of the grant scheme in April we have been out to meet with a number of community groups to discuss the types of project which they could undertake as energy costs are generally one of the highest expenditures they have to deal with.”

The CEEP two year pilot seeks to improve the energy efficiency of community facilities across Shetland. It is funded from the Shetland Islands Council (£200,000) and the Shetland LEADER 2008-2013 programme (£200,000).

 

Doors Open next weekend

THIS year’s Doors Open weekend features interesting and quirky buildings in 13 locations across the islands from Sumburgh to Unst.

The line up of buildings that will open their doors to the public on 17 and 18 September include the newly refurbished Belmont House in Unst, the picturesque Lerwick Lodberries, the Shetland Cheese factory in Skeld, as well as seaweed processor Böd Ayre Products, on the Lunna peninsula.

Organiser Marjolein Robertson, of the SIC’s planning department, said the annual event always seemed to capture the Shetland public’s imagination.

“Maybe it’s getting to see around places that aren’t normally accessible to the public. When we’re choosing the locations, we’re always keen to get a good spread across as many areas of Shetland as possible,” she said.

The full list of buildings taking part is available on the posters and programmes advertising the event or at www.doorsopendays.org.uk.

 

Spiggie run re-scheduled

The annual Round Spiggie Fun Run and Walk has been re-scheduled for Sunday 2 October at 2pm after it had to be cancelled due to a poor weather forecast, at the end of August.

Further info can be found at: www.mindyourhead.org.uk

 

Trainee of the Year

LOUISE King of Inksters Solicitors was awarded the Trainee Solicitor of the Year Award at this year’s Law Awards of Scotland, last week.

Brian Inkster, whose law firm was given the Solicitor of the Year award a few years ago, said: "Louise has done a remarkable job at Inksters as a trainee. She has shown great determination, dedication and initiative.

“This has created a very positive impact on the firm and one that you certainly would not expect to see at this stage in a lawyer's career.

“I am therefore extremely pleased that Louise has been recognised by The Law Awards of Scotland with this very deserved award for Trainee Solicitor of the Year."

During her training Ms King has dealt with a large number of cases for Inksters’ clients in Shetland and will continue to work with Shetland clients for Inksters when she qualifies as a Solicitor at the end of this month, Mr Inkster said.

Port celebrates “excellent” cruise liner season

Costa Pacifica (114,288 gross tonnes) during a visit to Lerwick - Photo: LPALERWICK Port Authority is already looking forward to an even better cruise liner season next year after an almost record summer season 2011.

More than 30,000 passengers arriving on 50 cruise liners visited Shetland between May and September.

Back in June this year, the port welcomed the largest liner yet – the 114,288 gross tonnes Costa Pacifica with 3,007 passengers on board.

Now a return visit by the Costa Pacifica is included in the 46 ships already lined up for 2012 – two more than for 2011 at this time last year.

The LPA’s deputy chief executive Victor Sandison said: “The sustained level of activity meant another excellent season for cruise tourism in Shetland, and one which had the potential to be even better, but for cancellations due to various factors, including weather-related.

“However, that potential is again reflected in advance bookings for next year which could see almost 35,000 visitors arriving.”

Highlights of the season included:

- 30,747 passengers, close to the record 30,843 in 2010;
- Calls by a record 50 vessels, beating the previous highest figure of 48 set in 2003 and equalled in 2005 and 2010;
- 1,211,514 gross tonnes of ships, just short of the record of 1,220,455 gross tonnes last year.

The port authority is a member of Cruise Europe and Cruise Scotland and marketing of the harbour and the islands’ many attractions includes participation at Seatrade Europe in Hamburg, from 27-29 September.

Firths Voe whale identified

The sei whale in Firths Voe - Photo: Austin TaylorA LARGE whale seen in Firths Voe, near Mossbank, earlier this month has been identified as a sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis).

Initially reported as being a minke whale, local whale expert Neil Anderson had queried this identification because of the cetacean’s head shape and the feeding method.

Now, an acknowledged world cetacean specialist from the USA has confirmed that the mammal had been a sei whale, after having been contacted by local photographer Austin Taylor.

Dr Tom Jefferson, a visiting scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries in the USA, said the most telling feature for identification was the rostrum shape.

“This whale has a rostrum with a downturned tip, which is very characteristic of seis, and I have never seen it on minkes. I would say I’m 100 per cent sure (this) one is a sei whale,” he said.

Sei whales are uncommon in Scottish waters as it is a deep water species. The last previous confirmed Shetland sighting was on 27 August 1993.

The sei whale feeding - Photo: George GrahamThe whale, feeding in Firths Voe, was first seen by local man George Graham on 1 September. Mr Graham also noticed that the whale had the remains of a harpoon stuck in his head.

Mr Taylor said: “The whale was feeding and, as it swam through the The harpoon in the whale's head looks like a home made spear - Photo: George Graham water it created quite a series of waves that rolled up against the rocky shore; there were three or four seals anxiously watching from a safe distance - though they were never in any danger from this animal.

“It fed in two ways, firstly in an upright form, powering forward at quite a good speed with its mouth open and just the pointed top of its head and front part of its baleen out of the water.

“It would then dive just below the surface and repeat that before arching its back, showing its dorsal fin and then going beneath the surface.

“The other way it fed was far more dramatic because the whale was on its side and showed its huge mouth, much of its baleen, its eye, throat grooves and pectoral fins - in this mode it became clear just how much the throat expands as it ploughs through the water scooping up water and whatever it was feeding on.”

More images can be found here:
www.austintaylorphotography.com/galleries/wildlife/2911-09-01-sei-whale/index.html

In brief for 12 September 2011

Pension office saved

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has welcomed news that the Pension Service has scrapped plans for the closure of local offices and outreach services in Orkney and Shetland.

In July, the Pensions Service announced plans for the closure of local offices with responsibility for contact visits being passed to offices on the mainland.

This move was delayed after Mr Carmichael had expressed concerns over the impact that this could have on vulnerable individuals in the Northern Isles. 

Senior Pension Service management confirmed on Monday that offices in Lerwick and Kirkwall offices were to remain open, with one full time member of staff in each office continuing to provide the range of services available at present. 

The suggestion that these services could have been provided by staff travelling from mainland Scotland was never a realistic one.

“It took some time and trouble to explain to them the realities of the geography they were dealing with but to their credit they now accept this and have changed their minds,” Mr Carmichael said.

 

Tavish on student travel

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has expressed his concern over changes in the way travel expenses are being dealt with as part of student loans awarded by the Student Award Agency.

New rules, effective this academic year, see support for student travel costs included within the student loan rather than being reimbursed separately.

Mr Scott said on Monday that such a change amounted to discrimination against Shetland students.

"This move is unfair.  It removes what was the only additional SAAS contribution towards the extra expense suffered by students living in remote areas of Scotland.

“With living costs and fuel prices going up, this change in the rules comes at a time when our university students need to stretch their budgets even more than in previous years. I expect the government to think again,” he said.

 

Althing programme

THE Althing debating group kicks off their winter programme on Saturday 24 September with a very topical debate on the pros and cons of this summer’s riots in England.

Speaking for the motion 'There is no excuse for rioting' are Chris Bunyan and Andy Holt, and opposing them will be Kat Brack and Gordon Dargie.

The other topics covered over the winter months are:

- Religion and education don't mix;
- Shetland's future lies in an independent Scotland;
- Modern life is making us stupid; and
- The rainy day has come - the reserves are there for spending.

A spokesman said that the group was always looking for people interested in speaking at its debates. Further information can be obtained from the group’s chairwoman Florence Grains on 01595 840 243.

All the debates take place in the Tingwall School starting at 7.30pm.

 

Charitable trust grants

SHETLAND Charitable Trust has awarded a total of 38 grants totalling £44,567 to local voluntary organisations as well as individuals assisting with travel costs, projects and annual running costs.

The largest grant of almost £10,000 was awarded to the Brae Youth Centre to help cover annual running costs.

Other beneficiaries were Vunk Fest (£2,830) to help cover the cost of this year’s festival, as well as the Shetland Jazz Club to help them laying on four gigs during the 2011/12 season.

The total cost of all these projects was £106,600.08 with funding of £62,033.08 being secured from other sources, a spokeswoman for the trust said.

A full list of beneficiaries can be found at: www.shetlandcharitabletrust.co.uk

 

HIAL success

HIGHLANDS and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) has had another successful year despite difficult economic conditions and a reduction in its revenue budget of £1 million, the company said.

Publishing its annual report for 2010/11 on Monday, HIAL said business growth at Sumburgh Airport continued to be driven by the oil and gas industry.

In its report, HIAL also highlighted the cooperation between the airport operator and the Highlands & Islands Fire & Rescue Service to build a new state of the art fire training facility at Sumburgh.

“This is primarily to provide Compartment Fire Behavioural Training but it is a multi-rig facility and can be used for all types of Breathing Apparatus Training with potential to be used by industries other than aviation and Local Authority Fire Service,” HIAL said.

At the edge of the precipice

SIC chief executive Alistair Buchan: 'The council’s reserves would be depleted in a very short period of years' - Photo: Hans J MarterSHETLAND Islands Council is to call on the public to help the local authority pulling away from the edge of the financial precipice.

With the bulk of the radical management restructuring planned to be completed during this week, the council’s focus will very quickly turn to its desperate financial situation.

The SIC must permanently reduce its budget by at least £18 million, or 13 per cent, over the next two years.

To achieve that, a reduction in services as well as job cuts, such as the 87 that have not been filled since the beginning of the year, are seen as inevitable.

Chief executive Alistair Buchan said that the council and the community it serves had a “shared interest” in getting this right.

“The financial situation now is extremely serious and the decisions that will have to be made will have a direct impact on every member of this community.

“The community has the right to be consulted, and I think the community has also a responsibility to put across its views as part of this process,” he said.

He admitted that he was fully aware that there was “a lot of consultation fatigue around in the community” and also accepted that the local authority was regularly the target of cynical comments, but insisted that now was the time to pull together.

Describing the SIC’s financial situation in the starkest terms, the chief executive said that no one should make the mistake of thinking that “we can carry on the way we are”.

“The reality is that the council’s reserves would be depleted in a very short period of years.

“If we had to do all this in a rush I would shudder at what would happen to Shetland.

“I agree with those who say that we should take a planned and strategic approach to changing the profile of our spending, and have proper regard for the social and economic impact in the community.

“That is why I am addressing things like management restructuring at the speed I am. It is about making sure that we don’t go over the edge of the precipice, frankly. It is as serious as that. We have to rein this in now,” Mr Buchan warned.

He added that officers were making good progress in identifying savings in the current financial year. Already £7 million of the target of a £9.4 million reduction in the 2011/12 revenue budget have been identified, of which £4 million would be recurring savings. A further £5 million has been earmarked to be slashed off the capital budget.

The council has also set up a one off £5 million capital spend-to-save fund to finance efficiency work.

Mr Buchan said that he would achieve the target of reducing the council’s wage bill for top management by £1 million this year.

As part of that process the number of senior position at the SIC is being reduced from 75 to 38, five director and 33 manager posts.

All candidates for the 33 manager posts will have been informed by Wednesday this week with an announcement expected immediately thereafter. It is understood that 18 of the 33 posts will be appointed through matching with existing posts.

Suspected drink driver bailed

THE CASE against a 63 year old man from Foula was continued without plea after he appeared from custody before Lerwick Sheriff Court, on Monday.

Ivan Arathoon, of Nurses Cottage, was released on bail and is due to appear before the court again on 5 October.

He is charged with failing to cooperate in a preliminary breath test after being stopped by police officers, who suspected him of driving while under the influence of alcohol, near the Tingwall airport on Friday afternoon,

He also charged with failing to provide two specimens of breath at Lerwick police station later the same day, as well as driving without insurance.

Meanwhile, a 21 year old man with an address in Mossbank was released on bail after he appeared from custody in private before Lerwick Sheriff Court on two charges of assault.

John Edward Hutchison made no plea or declaration and was committed for further examination.

SIC directorship post remains unfilled

THE VACANCY for Shetland Islands Council’s director of corporate services is to remain open for the time being after councillors decided not to make an appointment.

The position is the only one to remain vacant out of the five newly created senior management posts created as part of the comprehensive restructuring of the island’s local authority.

On Friday, former director of transportation and planning at Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Phil Crossland, was appointed new director of infrastructure services at the SIC.

On Monday morning, council chief executive Alistair Buchan said that despite an intensive interviewing process the selection panel, chaired by the council’s political leader Josie Simpson, felt that more time was needed before making the appointment.

The post had initially been advertised internally. When no appointment was made from SIC candidates in July this year, the vacancy was advertised nationally.

Mr Buchan said: “The standard of applicant for this very senior post was impressive. However, after careful consideration, the selection panel has agreed to take a little more time to look at options for covering this post.

“It’s very important that we don’t rush this process. We need to find the right person for this crucial job.”

An announcement on the appointments to the 38 manager posts, reduced from 75 before the restructuring, is expected for later this week.

Arrests after disturbances

TWO YOUNG men were arrested in Mossbank following two separate disturbances, both in the early hours of Saturday, police said on Monday morning.

A 21 year old was taken into custody for assault at around half past three in the morning after police were called to a disturbance in the village. Half an hour later police were called to another disturbance in Mossbank which resulted in the arrest of a 20 year old man.

Meanwhile, police arrested a 44 year old man for being drunk and incapable at Tingwall airport, on Friday afternoon.

While at Tingwall, police officers were made aware of a possible drink driver. This resulted in the arrest of a 63 year old man for drink driving.

Netball: The first games of the season

Kinetics (30) vs. Challengers (14)

The game started with fast paced play, both teams working hard and looking to gain an early lead.  Challengers displayed good movement in centre court from Catherine Williamson (C) and accurate shooting from Louise Johnson (GA).  Kinetics defense worked to pick up loose balls and gain interceptions.  The quarter time score was 4-4.

Both teams made changes to their line-up for the 2nd quarter,  with Heather Williamson coming onto WA for challengers, and for Kinetics Vaila Hough at WD, Louise Kelly at GK and Kirsti Leask at GS.  Kinetics started to look more settled, keeping possession in this quarter and pulling ahead 13-8 at the half time whistle.

Both teams still had everything to play for in the second half.  Kinetics stepped up a gear in the 3rd quarter, using short sharp passes up the court to the shooters.  Challengers were working hard in the defensive circle with Natalie Polson (GD) working hard to get rebounds and interceptions in the circle.  With an injury in this quarter, changes had to be made to both teams. However, Kinetics held onto their lead going into the fourth and final quarter 23-11.

The final quarter was a display of determination with both teams fighting for possession. Kinetics defense kept Louise Johnson and Lynsey Irvine at the edge of the circle, forcing long range shots, but with more accurate shooting only picking up some rebounds.   Kinetics managed to hold onto their lead and the game finished. 30-14.

Player of the match for Challengers was Louise Johnson and for Kinetics, Carina McLatchie.


AHS (15) vs. Team Rowley (38)

Both teams started well with strong defense from both ends of the court.  This was causing trouble for shooters, Claire Morris and Liza Fullerton of AHS and Lisa Morrison and Dawn Manson of Team Rowley, to convert passes into goals.  As the quarter went on Rowley found the net on more occasions, ending the first quarter 4-1.

After AHS had made a few changes to their team, the game began to settle. With fast play from Rowley's centre Kylie Wood and WA Karen McKay, balls were being fed into the shooters and goals were scored.  AHS defenders Megan Keppie and Rozanne Georgeson were making it difficult for the shooters to find the pass and made a few impressive interceptions. However, Rowley started to pull away and the quarter finished 18-7 in their favour.

The third quarter saw AHS ready to fight back. Rowley's defenders, Maisie Unsworth and Brenda Leask were marking their opponents in their defensive circle, Fullerton and Haley Tulloch, very closely however, which was forcing AHS to play the ball around the circle, to WA Claire Morris and centre Lauren Odie, with WD Katie Farnworth providing good support in the middle third. Many passes were stolen by Leask and Unsworth, which were managed to be quickly converted into goals by Team Rowley.

The final quarter saw a change in defense for AHS as Iona Holmes came back to GK, causing feeding into shooters a more difficult task and forcing Morrison and Manson to shoot from a further distance. This did not phase them however as they were netting some impressive long range shots and managed to extend their lead further. Team Rowley's defense was continuing to work hard causing no end of trouble for AHS. As the game came to an end Rowley were victorious with a score of 38-15.

Players of the match were Lisa Morrison from Team Rowley and Iona Holmes for AHS.


Division 2

Wastside (55) vs. Da Hooligans (19)

The first game of the second division started with the Westside lasses against the young Whalsay team.  Hooligans took first centre pass, Karis Irvine connecting well with attackers, Rhona Tait WA, Rhea Kay GS and Valerie Sales GA, netting the first goal for the team.  Wastside secured the goal that followed, Aimee Keith C and Julie Crossan WA, trying to ensure quick passes made it to shooters, Mhari Moncrieff GA and Catherine Henry GS.   Both teams followed with their share of the play but Julie Keith GK and Karen priest GD were determined to catch any rebound shots from Hooligans and this meant that Wastside gained control and gradually edged into the lead ending the quarter with 11 goals to 6.

In the second quarter, Aimee Keith continued to play well for Wastside in centre court.  Holly Jamieson WD, Lara Kay GD and Nicola Polson GK worked tirelessly in Hooligans' defence, trying to intercept from Wastside's attacking line, but the experienced play of Mhari Moncrieff GA and Catherine Henry GS, made it difficult.  Wastside increased their lead by 29-12.

Both teams made some changes in the third quarter.  Lynsey Morrison and Karis Irvine were well matched against each other as centre players, showing skill beyond their years, but it was Wastside who took advantage of the fresh legs and continued to thwart the Hooligans chances at goal.  Karen Priest GD, Julie Keith GK and Pauline Walterson WD were gaining possession and finding space to get the ball back through to Lisa Johnson WA and Mhari Moncrieff in the Wastside circle.  Hooligans defenders continued to look for rebounds but Catherine Henry and Mhari Moncrieff were not letting anything slip by them and the quarter ended 40-15 in Wastside's favour.

Wastside continued to dominate in the final quarter but Hooligans never gave up. Karis Irvine was always working hard.  Shooters, Rhea Kay GS and Valerie Sales GA were steadily gaining more confidence and taking their shots well in the circle but Wastside used their experience to their advantage and continued to add to their tally.  The final score ended 55-19.

Players of the match were Aimee Keith for Wastside and Karis Irvine, Hooligans.


Mishaps (37) vs. Hotfooters (35)

Hotfooters, an untried and inexperienced squad this year with five new signings playing for the first time at senior level, proved to be a tough opening match for the established Mishaps team.

The two sides were evenly matched for the 1st quarter with the Mishaps edging ahead in the last minute to lead 8 – 7.

The second period highlighted Hotfooters inexperience, showing how they were a little unsure of one another, resulting in several turnovers in mid court against them. This allowed Ann-Marie Goudie and Leanne Tait (GS) to net their shots and demonstrate how valuable experience is when it comes to taking charge in the shooting circle. Mishaps increased their lead to 24 – 16 at half-time.

The third quarter showed the potential of the young team as they came out more settled catching Mishaps unaware as they began to get to grips with the game. The defensive trio of Meryn Johnston (GK), Ailild Risk (GD) and Laura Cheyne (WD) began to upset the flow of the Mishaps attack gaining possession for Hotfooters. With Jenny Anderson highly active in the centre role and linking well with Anne Leask (WA), combined with accurate shooting from Megan Peturrsen and Kim Johnson, Hotfooters scored 6 goals in a row wining the quarter 11 – 5 and reducing Mishaps lead to 29 – 27.

The final quarter was a hard fought 15 minutes as Mishaps recognised the danger their opponents presented. Suzanne Manson (WA) was influential in steadying the Mishaps attack and with both sets of shooters on fire the teams scored a further 8 goals apiece. Final score 37 – 35 in Mishaps favour.

Leanne Tait and Jenny Anderson were voted players of the match.

 

Division 3

Dutch Courage (9) vs. Team Tingwall (35)

The game began with a strong start from Team Tingwall with quick passing into the goal third. Dutch Courage settled into the game after the first few minutes managing to get on the score board before the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter got off to a fast start with Tingwall continuing to dominate much of the play.  Dutch Courage worked well in and around the centre taking a more defensive strategy against their opponents.

After some substitutions at half time, Dutch Courage came together to add to their score but Tingwall attacked strong and managed to extend their lead.

The fourth quarter was quick paced with Dutch Courage taking long passes up to the goal third. However, Tingwall's defence was strong and excellent play from the shooters meant they finished the match on top.

Players of the match were Kate Wills for Dutch Courage and Rachel Young for Team Tingwall.


Scallywags (19) vs. Arctic Security (37)

Scallywags won the first centre pass which signaled the start of a very fast quarter between the two teams who were both determined to finish with a win.  Scallywags were a bit unsettled and Arctic Security used this to their advantage which saw accurate shooting from Julie Brown GA and Paula Sinclair GS making Scallywags defense work tirelessly fighting for every pass.  As the quarter ended Arctic Security were leading 6-11.

With the second quarter under way, it was Arctic Security who dominated most of the play with accurate passing in their mid court through to their shooters who were rarely missing the net.  Scallywags never gave up which saw great passing from Gwen Malcolmson C through to Meg Laurenson WA into their shooters who despite being marked closely by Kristen Johnston GK and Sarah Kay GD, were finding their shots on goal.  As the half time whistle went it was Arctic Security who were leading 11-19.

As the third quarter got underway, again it was Arctic Security who were dominating the play with their accurate passing making Scallywags Rachel Williamson GD and Debbie Morgan GK work hard in defense.  Scallywags were determined to close down the scoring which saw some great long range shots by Anne-Marie Robinson GA and Cyndi Pottinger GS find the net.  As this quarter drew to a close Arctic Security were leading the home side 15-27.

With everything to play for in this final quarter Scallywags were now playing well together with great passing between Malcolmson C and Joy Duncan WA but Arctic Security's Kristen Johnston GK were soon on the rebounds feeding the ball back up the court.  Scallywags gave it their all in this last quarter but it was Arctic Security who was the stronger of the teams and secured their first win of the season 19-37.  Very fast paced game with lots of all round play by both teams.

Players of the match were Gwen Malcolmson for Scallywags and Julie Brown for Arctic Security.

Travel disruptions likely as Katia heads for Scotland

PASSENGERS on the northern isles ferries Hrossey and Hjaltland have been warned to expect disruptions to the service over the next few days as the remains of the tropical storm Katia hit Scotland on Monday and Tuesday.

Winds of up to force nine with gusts peaking at 80 miles per hour have been forecast for Scotland, although Shetland is expected to escape the worst with winds of between force six and seven forecast for the isles.

Ferry operator NorthLink said those planning to travel should follow the company’s updates on its website at www.northlinkferries.co.uk

On Sunday, NorthLink said that Monday’s sailing of the Hrossey from Lerwick was expected to depart at 5.30pm as scheduled and to arrive in Kirkwall as timetabled.

However there was a probability of a delayed arrival in Aberdeen, on Tuesday morning, due to the forecast weather conditions.

A further update on the situation would be published on Monday at around 8am, the company said.

Meanwhile transport minister Keith Brown said power companies and transport providers across Scotland were preparing for the impact of the post-tropical storm.

The minister said: “Some strong winds and heavy rain are forecast for Monday and Tuesday, and forecasts suggest travel conditions are likely to be difficult.

“The high winds and heavy rain are expected to peak on Monday afternoon and evening, so commuters are advised that if they can leave work earlier that would be a very sensible step to help avoid rush-hour delays.

“We are all working hard to keep Scotland moving and I urge everyone to allow extra time for travel, avoid unnecessary risks and keep checking websites and local radio for real-time information”.

In brief for 9 September 2011

Mackerel fishing

IAN GATT of the Scottish pelagic industry has said that he expects news on the shape and form of EU sanctions against Iceland and Faroe Islands in the next few weeks.

Mr Gatt’s comments came after yet another meeting between the government and the Scottish pelagic industry discussed the “ongoing situation of serious overfishing of mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes”.

For 2011, the Faroe Islands have set themselves a quota of 150,000 tonnes, while Iceland is determined to catch 147,000 tonnes.

“The current overfishing of valuable mackerel by Iceland and the Faroes outwith any international management plan is completely unacceptable and a practicable resolution must be achieved.

“It is essential that sanctions are meaningful and are introduced as soon as possible,” Mr Gatt said.

 

Northern isles ferry contract

THE TWO LibDem MSPs for the northern isles, Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur have added their voices to concern over delays in getting the tendering process for the Shetland and Orkney lifeline ferry contract under way.

Earlier this week, current operator NorthLink said they had stopped marketing the isles to tour operators wishing to visit in 2013 because no specifications for the service after summer 2012 had been made available to them.

Mr Scott said: “The Scottish government are damaging the island's economy. I warned ministers months ago that they had set a ridiculously tight timescale to have a ferry operator confirmed for next summer.

“Now, because of the Scottish government's incompetence, Shetland's tourist industry is being damaged. This is unacceptable and I will be raising it with ministers in parliament."

Mr McArthur added: “The process that led to the decision by SNP ministers to ‘unbundle’ the northern isles routes has been nothing short of shambolic.

“We are now seeing the first signs of the potential damage this approach could cause.  Even at this late stage, I would urge the Scottish government to rethink its approach, re-engage with the local councils and other stakeholders and ensure that the next ferry contract properly meets the needs of those it is there to serve.”


Single police force

NORTHERN Constabulary chief constable George Graham has reacted to the Scottish government’s announcement that the country’s eight police forces will be merged into one.

The chief constable said: “Whilst a single Scottish Police force was not the preferred model of many stakeholders, the Scottish Government has chosen this structure as the way forward.

"Now that a decision has been made, we must accept that decision, welcome the clarity it brings and move forward, embracing the opportunities together with the inevitable challenges.

"The implementation is likely to take a significant number of years and resources to complete.

“My priority in the meantime, is to ensure that the high quality policing service we provide in the Highlands and Islands is maintained, that our successful community policing style is continued and that the partnerships we have, are sustained and strengthened in any new structure.".

 

Fishing tackle

POLICE in Shetland are keen to reunite a rucksack with fishing equipment with its owner after it was found at the Laxo Burn, near to Vidlin during the early afternoon of Thursday.

The fishing tackle can be reclaimed at the Lerwick police station, telephone 01595 69 2110.

SIC appoints new director of infrastructure

Phil Crossland.SHETLAND Islands Council has appointed Phil Crossland as its new director of infrastructure services.

Mr Crossland was director of transportation and planning at Stoke-on-Trent City Council until March this year, and is expected to take up his new post with the SIC later this month.

Mr Crossland has a background in civil engineering. He has also worked at Shropshire Council and Surrey County Council and has been in local government since 1990.

He said: “I am very much looking forward to working with staff and members, together with our communities and partners, for the benefit of Shetland.  For me, this is not just about the job; it’s a fantastic lifestyle opportunity.”

His appointment is part of the ongoing management restructuring process that had been initiated in the wake if the critical Accounts Commission report. The new management structure will consist of five director posts and 33 managers.

The council’s chief executive Alistair Buchan said: “We’ve taken some really big steps in management restructuring in what is a very fast paced period of change.

“By the end of next week there will be lot more good news on management appointments. At a time of considerable challenge I’m very pleased to be able to welcome a man of Phil’s experience and ability.”

An announcement on the director post for corporate services is expected later today (Friday).

In July, the SIC appointed former head of schools Helen Budge as director of children’s services; former head of community care Christine Ferguson as director of community care services; and former head of economic development Neil Grant as director of development services.

A failure of imagination

SHETLAND Islands Council’s vision of the future has been criticised by a local community group as being “flawed” and “unrealistic”.

Transition Shetland, which is concerned with planning for a future in light of peak oil and climate change, has welcomed the council’s “scenario planning” exercise, in which it imagines Shetland’s future.

However the group believes the people who have drawn up the various scenarios have failed to consider how much the islands will be affected by rising oil prices.

In a six page response to the planning exercise, the group says: “There is a general underestimation of the impact that rising oil and commodity prices will have on the community and the economy. This is a crucial mistake

“These scenarios make only a half-hearted stab at imagining the possible effect of this on our lives. Unless Shetland can focus much harder on increasing community resilience to such changes, we are, as it were, asking for trouble.”

The group has praised the council for running the scenario planning exercise and praises its emphasis on the importance of local food production, the importance of communities, energy efficiency and tackling divisions.

“It is to be hoped this kind of planning and forward thinking will mark an end to the seemingly directionless policy making that has characterised the council’s activities over recent years.”

However it complains the council has assumed the global economy will remain largely unchanged, that the economy is paramount for community well-being and that “what is good for Lerwick is good for Shetland”.

The group says: “We believe that communities can and should be able to thrive no matter where they are. In future there should be less emphasis on improving access between remote places and Lerwick…and more on strengthening the elements necessary for these places to prosper.”

The group concludes the council’s most optimistic scenario is a “fantasy” that reflects the view that “decision makers are already on the right track”.

The group says: “The scenarios seem to us something of a wasted opportunity…We would like to think it was possible to imagine a positive future for Shetland that is realistic, that is consistent, that is achievable. The ‘scenario planning’ has not achieved this, however.”

The Transition Shetland statement can be read at
http://www.transitionshetland.org.uk/scenario-response.html

The council is looking for responses to the scenario planning exercise by 16 September. Details about the exercise and how to respond can be found at
http://www.shetland.org/2030/index.php

Shetland wool goes high society

Stitch stools made of wool from Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers.SHETLAND wool is featuring alongside top modern designers at an exhibition in London that opened this week.

Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers have collaborated with textile designer Clair-Anne O’Brien to exhibit “playful statement pieces” in bold colours.

The work is on show at Wool Modern alongside top fashion houses Alexander McQueen, Maison Martin Margiela and Vivienne Westwood.

Wool Modern focuses on the innovative and avant-garde use of wool in the creative industries, and is part of Prince Charles’ Campaign for Wool.

Jamieson and Smith managing director Oliver Henry said: ‘Wool Modern aims to challenge the perception of wool and break new ground for the future.

“Jamieson & Smith is focused on building a sustainable future for Shetland’s wool industry through our work with over 700 local producers. Working with Clair-Anne O’Brien at Wool Modern is an exciting part of this and highlights what we are doing on an international scale.”

Wool Modern opened on 8 September in London’s Pall Mall and is due to tour Berlin, the US, Sydney, Shanghai and Tokyo.

SHEAP to be not so cheap

LERWICK’S pioneering district heating scheme is increasing its charges by around 17 per cent to keep in line with other energy providers.

The Shetland Charitable Trust-owned company supplied heat to 1,100 properties in the town, 100 of which are non-domestic buildings that consume 60 per cent of the available heat.

Trustees were told on Thursday that Shetland Heat, Energy and Power (SHEA) had made a profit of £315,000 last year, around £100,000 short of its target due to the unusually cold winter.

Trust financial controller Jeff Goddard said SHEAP had reached a “tipping point” where this year it was expected to return to the trust more money than it was investing for the first time in its 13 year history.

Mr Goddard said the trust was “reluctant” to increase charges, but that SHEAP heat cost between 20 and 40 per cent less than other providers.

Independent trustee Sir John Scott said it was “only right and proper” that the margin between what the “privileged group” receiving heat from SHEAP and everyone else should not become too wide.

The trust has invested more than £14 million in the Lerwick district heating scheme, which has reached its full capacity using heat generated from the town’s incinerator.

This year the trust expects to spend £300,000 on running SHEAP, a figure that is expected to reduce to £250,000 next year and £100,000 for ensuing years.

Trust stability allows long term planning

FINANCIAL stability at the £210 million Shetland Charitable Trust means that for the first time in its history it can offer a three year budget for the community organisations it funds.

Years of unsustainable expenditure at up to £18 million a year have been brought under control. As a result on Thursday trustees were able to set a standstill budget of £11 million a year until 2015.

The move will be welcomed by the many organisations funded by the trust, some of whom have been calling for a three budget for the past decade. They will however face the challenge of not increasing their expenditure.

Shetland Islands Council convener and trustee Sandy Cluness said: “Most funded bodies have found it very difficult operating on a one year budget. This level of funding is perfectly reasonable, it’s a good idea and we should get on with it as quickly as possible.”

However trustees also heard that the past three weeks have seen SCT’s stock market investments plummet by £12 million “on paper”, reflecting the recent volatility of the global financial exchanges.

Independent trustee Sir John Scott called for further savings by removing the special islands allowance from the 250 or so people employed in all the bodies funded by the charitable trust.

The islands allowance was introduced in the 1970s to stop local people moving into the lucrative oil industry, and is worth around £2,000 a year to public sector employees.

Sir John estimated the saving could be as high as £1 million a year that could be spent on “charitable purposes”, though trust staff later suggested that the actual figure was around half that amount.

Shetland Islands Council trustee Rick Nickerson urged caution, saying: “We are entering what could be a new boom in Shetland which is not unsimilar to what happened in the 1970s and it could be a case where an islands allowance will be required to attract new staff because of oil developments and maybe other developments.”

But Sir John said the allowance was “archaic” and should be phased out, adding that the trust should be following the example of the local authority and reducing its overall staffing costs, which currently stand at around £6 million.

The trust’s financial controller Jeff Goddard said it was very important for community organisations to have stable funding during times of public sector restraint.

Just over £9 million will be spent on recurring costs, including staff, with £1.6 million on planned maintenance and £300,000 for unplanned “one-offs”, such as the £220,000 needed to repair Scalloway swimming pool’s roof next year.

Trust chairman Bill Manson said he believed the trust could afford £11 million a year on the basis that it earns an average five per cent on its investments. “Unless the financial world turns upside down we can afford the current policy,” he said.

If any cash is left over at the end of the year it will go into an asset replacement fund, though a working group is being set up to make sure the trust is as flexible as possible in allowing funded bodies to retain unspent cash into the following year.

The trust has around £170 million invested on the global markets and £40 million in the local economy. On 31 March this year the trust was worth £219.8 million, but that figure is now below £210 million.

Teenager sexually assaults PC

A SHETLAND teenager who admitted sexually assaulting a police constable while she was on duty has been told that he could go to prison for up to a year.

Brydon Robertson, of 2 Nordavatn, Lerwick, also pled guilty to a charge of behaving in an abusive manner by shouting, swearing and making lewd comments, when he appeared before the town’s sheriff court, on Thursday morning.

The court heard that Robertson grabbed the police officer by her buttock when she and a male colleague attended at his house after receiving complaints about loud noise, in the early hours of 16 July.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said Robertson, who was 17 at the time of the offence, also made a number of lewd comments which had been “explicit in the extreme”.

He added that police officers were regularly subject to abusive behaviour in the course of their duties, but those from Robertson were “extortionate in how explicit and abusive they were.”

Sheriff Graeme Napier deferred sentence until 5 October for a social enquiry report, but warned Robertson that he could go to prison or be fined up to £10,000.

He also told him that he had an obligation to register as a sex offender at the Lerwick police station.

Court in brief

Tulloch escapes jail

A LERWICK man who stubbed his cigarette out in a man’s eye on a drunken night out in the town escaped jail when he appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday.

Sheriff Graeme Napier imposed a community payback order on Trevor Tulloch, which included 140 hours of unpaid work, being supervised for the next year and paying £500 in compensation.

The 31 year old with an address of 7 Sunniva Street, Lerwick, had previously been told that a custodial sentence was the most likely outcome. The offence took place on 7 May.

But defence solicitor Tommy Allan convinced the sheriff that his client was in the process of turning around his life and now had “a different focus”.

Compensation for assault and damage

A YOUNG man from Mossbank was ordered to pay more than £700 in compensation after assaulting other men at the Brae Hall on 7 August and also damaging the bonnet a car parked at the hall.

Twenty two year old Mark Smith, of 33 Leaside, had previously pled guilty to three charges. He will have to pay each of his victims £200 and £374.40 to the owner of the damaged vehicle.

 

Man stole car and crashed it

Sentence on a man from Weisdale has been deferred until 5 October for reports after he admitted stealing a car in Walls, driving while disqualified and without insurance, on 1 January this year.

The car was later found in a ditch at the Bridge of Walls. Sheriff Graeme Napier told 30 year old Peter John Henderson, of 10 Kalliness, Weisdale that he should not be surprised to end up in custody as a result of his behaviour.

“Unpleasant trend” of racial abuse

SHETLAND’S procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie has described the growing number of racially aggravated crimes coming before Lerwick Sheriff Court as an “unpleasant trend”.

Mr Mackenzie was referring to two such cases on Thursday, and another earlier this week. He said some islanders had taken to targeting others in the community “simply because of their ethnicity”.

On Thutrsday 17 year old Danne Scott, of 17 Russell Crescent, Lerwick, was fined almost £500 and told to pay compensation totalling £550 after admitting assault and racially aggravated abuse, while sentence on 21 year old Darren Laurenson, of 16 Hoofields, Lerwick, was deferred for reports until 5 October.

Scott pled guilty to assaulting two of his friends at Victoria Pier during the Tall Ships event, on 22 July. In addition he threatened to kill one of them and called him a “black bastard”.

The court heard that Scott was drunk at the time, and had experienced problems when drinking vodka.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said he was intrigued by this admission and told him that no drinks were suitable for him since he was only 17.

He fined him £480 and told him to pay a total of £550 in compensation, £400 of which was to go to the victim he racially abused.

Laurenson meanwhile admitted shouting and swearing in a racially aggravated manner at Lerwick’s Market Cross on 23 August.

The court was told that his Thai victim and her two young children were fearful and extremely alarmed.

Defence solicitor Tommy Allan said his client had been under the influence of alcohol but was unable to explain his behaviour.

He added that he was extremely sorry and wanted to apologise to his victim.

Deferring sentence, Sheriff Napier told Laurenson that alcohol was not an excuse.

 

In brief for 7 September 2011

Lerwick pair bailed on assault charges

TWO people from Lerwick were released on bail after appearing in private at the town’s Sheriff Court on charges of assault.

Neither 31 year old Wayne Uren or 24 year old Amy Groat made any plea or declaration before being committed for further examination by honorary sheriff Eric Peterson.


Efforts to reduce suicide rate

FIVE people lost their lives to suicide last year, according to NHS Shetland’s Choose Life co-ordinator Karen Smith.

This week is Suicide Prevention Week and Choose Life is making resources to help prevent people from feeling the need to take their own lives widely available in the islands, including through health centres, Lerwick’s Market House, Gilbert Bain Hospital, Shetland Youth Information Service and elsewhere.

Ms Smith said: “It’s important that if you have the slightest inclination that someone you know might be having thoughts of suicide, you ask them about it.

“Mentioning suicide isn’t going to put the thought in their head if it wasn’t there before; and if it was, they’ll probably be relieved that you’ve mentioned it. Suicide can affect anyone and it’s not a subject that should be hidden.”

Anyone feeling suicidal or who suspects that someone they know is considering suicide can contact Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (24 hours) or Breathing Space on 0800 83 85 87 (Mon-Thurs 6pm-2am; weekends Fri 6pm-Mon 6am).


Lerwick man fined for assault

A LERWICK man was fined £60 and ordered to pay £50 compensation to his victim after he pled guilty to assaulting a man on the town’s Commercial Street last month.

Neil John Davidson, aged 43, of 85 Sandveien, admitted butting his victim on the head on 13 August, when he appeared before honorary sheriff Eric Peterson at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.


Broch lights damaged

LERWICK police are looking for any information to help them track down vandals who smashed the floodlights at the Clickimin broch some time between Monday and Wednesday last week (29 to 31 August).

Lerwick police station can be contacted on 01595 692110.


No takers for boiler scheme

NO ONE in Shetland has applied for the £400 the Scottish government is offering towards the cost of a new boiler, according to the Energy Saving Trust

The EST is now renewing calls for people to take advantage of the scheme, which helps towards the cost of scrapping an old inefficient boiler and reducing household heating bills by around one quarter.

Shetland Islands Council social services committee chairman Cecil Smith said the Shetland weather made local households more vulnerable to rising energy costs and fuel poverty.

“Installing an efficient heating system is an effective way of reducing your CO2 emissions, not to mention your household energy bills.  I would encourage folk to see if they can benefit from this scheme,” he said.

More information is available from the Home Energy Scotland Helpline on 0800 512 012 or through the Energy Saving Trust website at

http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/scotland/Scotland-Welcome-page/At-Home/Home-Energy-Scotland/Scottish-Boiler-Scrappage-Scheme

 

SIC community grant bids go online

MORE than £41,000 has been handed out to community groups between June and August by Shetland Islands Council’s grants unit.

The grants included £1,000 each to play schemes in Unst and Yell who used the cash to help pay for a range of ‘away day activities’ over the summer break for primary pupils, including a performance of the popular Bell and Bullock Cabin Fever Show.

Delting Football Club received £2,000 to help with the cost of running the club’s junior teams

Community groups can now apply online for grant aid assistance through the Council’s website: http://www.shetland.gov.uk/community/grantaid/

Council consultants’ bill revealed

CONSULTANTS employed by Shetland Islands Council to turn the authority into an efficient and effective organisation have cost a total of £300,000, according to figure revealed on Wednesday.

Chief executive Alistair Buchan said it had been essential to employ the 15 advisers to help speed through change in the authority, following criticism from local government watchdog The Accounts Commission in 2010.

Mr Buchan said the average cost of consultants was between £400 and £500 a day, but pointed out that 10 years ago the council was paying twice that amount.

Mr Buchan has been given a total budget of £1 million to implement an improvement plan for the Shetland Islands Council.

“I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever this is excellent value for money. It is a small proportion of the budget that the council has allocated for change and improvement,” Mr Buchan said, speaking on BBC Radio Shetland.

“We are getting some of the best people in the country at the most competitive rates. I have absolutely no doubt it is essential to our improvement work.”

He pointed specifically to the £70,000 it had cost to implement changes in senior management, which will see 75 posts reduced to 38, saving an estimated £1 million.

There has also been a new committee structure introduced with a strict new protocol for meetings, which has not gone down well with some councillors who privately complain about it.

The main costs has been for the four consultants employed through the local government improvement service run by local authority umbrella group COSLA.

Brian Lawrie, Keith Yates, Nigel Stewart and former NHS Shetland chief executive Sandra Laurenson have cost a total of £170,427.

A team of accountants from The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, and PricewaterhouseCoopers cost £67,431.

Professor Peter McKiernan and Gary Bowman from Strathclyde Business School have cost £33,429 for the scenario planning exercise to plan Shetland’s future for the next 20 years.

COSLA’s job evaluation consortium charged £18,338 to help reorganise senior council posts.

And Radio Scotland DJ and journalist Tom Morton has been paid £6,975 for helping develop a communications strategy.

All the figures are until 31 July.

The expenditure has been criticised by local government union Unison. Branch chairman Brian Smith told Radio Shetland the council had to ask itself whether it was doing the right thing spending such large sums on outside consultants.

Industry unnerved by ferry uncertainty

SHETLAND’S growing tourism sector could suffer a major blow next year if the uncertainty surrounding the new northern isles ferry contract continues for much longer, transport and tourism managers warned on Wednesday.

They said the remaining timescale of less than 10 months to tender for the now separate contracts for the Shetland/Orkney to Aberdeen and the Pentland Firth services was extremely tight.

Current operator of both crossings NorthLink told a meeting of the Shetland external transportation forum that they would not be able to attend the World Travel Market travel fair in London later this year since they had no product to sell.

Director of Promote Shetland, Andy Steven, said he believed the isles tourism sector would take a knock in 2012 and 2013 because established links with tour operators could be severed.

“Tour operators are not thinking about the next year, but about 2013 and the following years. Building these relations takes years, and what is being done here is taking away the continuity and potentially damaging relationships,” he said.

NorthLink’s contract to provide lifeline services to Orkney and Shetland expires at the end of June 2012, but the government has so far given no indication as to the timetable and the fare structure they want to be in operation as of July 2012.

The government has said that it does not want an extension to the current contract, and was confident that a new contract would be in place in time by using a “competitive dialogue” tendering process.

In the circumstances it was “pointless” to go to travel fares because NorthLink had no product to sell, the company’s managing director Bill Davidson said.

“We are very keen to maintain the group tours business, but after taking soundings from a number of tour operators we believe that the potential for different operators on the Pentland Firth and Aberdeen routes combined with the uncertainty as to the Pentland Firth ‘offering’ means we cannot continue to market and sell the current packages.

“We’re discussing the implications of this with Scottish government officials and all parties are committed to doing what is for the best, but we have regretfully concluded that we will suspend taking bookings for the current packages for the 2013 tour group season for both the ‘via Orkney to Shetland’ tours and the Orkney only tours.

“As we don’t know what ‘product’ we will have to sell we also believe there will be little value in us attending the World Travel Market trade fair this year.

“We can sell the islands but not the way to get there,” he said.

He added that the company’s tour operator contingent for the whole of 2012 was fully booked, but the company did not know whether they would operate the route after June that year.

Tour operators have bought into this on “the expectation that it will be alright”, he said.

Ruth Henderson, of seafood trades body Seafood Shetland, added: “It is unnerving to hear all this uncertainty. We must ensure that we have this service, since it is principal for Shetland.”

The meeting agreed that it was for the local transport partnership ZetTrans to lobby the government and also to involve isles MSP Tavish Scott.

In July, Transport Scotland published a notice saying that tendering papers were about to be published.

Government officials hope to have a shortlist of potential companies drawn up by the end of November and then to enter into a “competitive dialogue” which will be concluded with the awarding of the two separate contracts in spring next year. Hand over of the service will be on 5 July 2012.

The government agency said that it was committed to continue with the quality service for the isles and saw no reason why this could not be continued.

Meanwhile it emerged that all three NorthLink vessels, Hjaltland, Hrossey and Hamnavoe, will be out of service for a total of nine weeks in February and March next year.

Each vessel will have to go to dry dock for an extended period of three weeks, because they are now 10 years old.

This could mean that the Shetland service could operate with just one vessel for the whole period as attempts to hire in the CalMac vessel Hebridian Isles are opposed by Orkney, where transport managers fear that operating a smaller vessel on the Pentland route could set a dangerous precedent.

SIC community grant bids go online

MORE than £41,000 has been handed out to community groups between June and August by Shetland Islands Council’s grants unit.

The grants included £1,000 each to play schemes in Unst and Yell who used the cash to help pay for a range of ‘away day activities’ over the summer break for primary pupils, including a performance of the popular Bell and Bullock Cabin Fever Show.

Delting Football Club received £2,000 to help with the cost of running the club’s junior teams.

Delting Football Club received £2,000 to help with the cost of running the club’s junior teams Community groups can now apply online for grant aid assistance through the Council’s website: http://www.shetland.gov.uk/community/grantaid/

 

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