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In brief for 7 April 2011

Sea lice concerns

THE SCOTTISH Salmon Producers Organisation has dismissed concerns about sea lice on Scottish salmon farms as part of a London-based “orchestrated campaign”.

The comments came after the Salmon and Trout Association obtained information from the Fish Health Inspectorate that there had been 68 cases of fish farms having sea lice levels above recommended thresholds over the past two years.

More than 50 farms had sea lice problems, and there were 48 cases of sea lice problems not being recorded properly.

The STA is calling for greater independent controls, but SSPO chief executive Scott Lansburgh said the industry had the public’s confidence with “more than a million salmon meals eaten in the UK every day”.

 

Clive downsizes

Clive’s Record Shop in Lerwick’s Commercial Street will reopen at the end of next week as a smaller enterprise focussed on specialist, independent and back catalogue material.

One of the last independent record stores in the north, Clive’s closed down last month after a clearance sale brought on by competition from downloads, online sales and supermarket prices.

The shop will abandon the mainstream CD market and if the new approach works, the business will move to new, smaller premises.

 

Charity seeks trustees

LOCAL charity Disability Shetland is looking for two new trustees to join its seven strong management committee and help shape the future of the organisation.

The charity supports children, young people and adults with disabilities in Shetland to realise their full potential with a range of services and clubs.

New trustees will be expected to attend the 11 trustee meetings, attend the AGM, support staff, help with fundraising and promote the work the charity does.

Anyone interested can contact Amanda Westlake on 01595743980 or at amanda.westlake@shetland.org.

More information about the charity can be found at www.shetlandcommunities.org/subsites/disability-shetland.

 

Hospital donation

STAFF at Ward One of Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital were handed a cheque for £2,220 from the family of the late Dodie Irvine.

The money, which was collected in Mr Irvine’s memory, will be used for education and training in Shetland for inflammatory bowel conditions, such as Crohn’s Disease, from which he suffered.

Director of nursing Kathleen Carolan said the cash would be used to offer nurses additional training to raise awareness of chronic bowel conditions.

2011 Election – Fox: ‘Scott’s double U turn on fishing’

INDEPENDENT candidate Billy Fox has harked back to 2003 to remind local fishermen of Liberal Democrat candidate Tavish Scott’s “double U turn” on the Common Fisheries Policy.

At the time Mr Scott was deputy finance minister in the Labour/LibDem coalition running Holyrood, when he found himself in the awkward position of representing a Scottish executive led by first minister Jack McConnell that backed the CFP.

Having already resigned from the previous coalition executive of Henry MacLeish in 2001 after refusing to back the party line on a tie up scheme for trawlers, matters became more complicated in November 2003.

Mr Scott came out vocally against the CFP, and was ordered to retract his position as it broke the rules of ministerial collective responsibility.

However within hours he had reinforced his initial stance in comments to the media and local fishermen, saying: “''The CFP has failed, not just Scottish fishermen but all of Europe's fishermen. It must go.”

The change of stance led to calls for his resignation from the Tories and SNP, led by current fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead, but he survived and was later promoted to transport minister.

On Thursday Mr Fox said that local fishermen would not forget Mr Scott’s “double U turn”.

“Even by LibDem standards this was exceptional.  I do not think the Shetland fishing community's memory is that short.”

Mr Fox said that he, like his rival, supported the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s manifesto that calls for greater regional control of fisheries and closer working between fishermen and scientists.

“I have found in my working life that it is the folk on the shop floor, or on the water, who invariably know what is best for their industry. Unfortunately in the case of our fishing industry these folk have seldom been listened to, if ever.

“Since 2003 Tavish Scott has filed the fishing industry in his 'too difficult' drawer; that drawer now needs re-opening but Mr Scott is not the man to do it.”

 

NorthLink's new era starts with Total contract

Accomodation_block_modulesFERRY operators NorthLink are hoping a new contract to ship more than 550 accommodation modules to Sullom Voe will help strengthen their future during tough financial times.

This weekend the state-owned shipping company will start transporting modules from Lerwick to Sella Ness where they will be put together for new quarters to house around 800 workers building the £500 million Total gas plant over the next three years.

NorthLink said the contract with global Danish logistics operator DSV was an early step towards generating extra income by expanding their freight business and targeting large cargoes for the energy industry, including renewables.

Last year the company looked at raising fares and cutting fuel costs by running slower journeys after the Scottish government demanded a £1 million cut to their £33 million annual subsidy.

Managing director Bill Davidson said: “We’re committed to increasing revenue streams and thereby reducing the subsidy requirement from the public purse.

“We plan to do this by looking for commercial possibilities while ensuring we maintain the level of service required by the lifeline ferries contract.”

He said they would be shipping 568 portacabin-sized modules from Aberdeen to Lerwick on their freight vessels Hildasay and Hellier during the week, and at weekends Hellier would deliver them to the construction site at Sella Ness.

 

Deepwater Horizon-style oil spill exercise next month

MORE than 100 people are expected to take part in one of the biggest oil spill exercises ever carried out in Britain, when a simulated deep water oil spill off Shetland is enacted next month.

The two day exercise being planned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) will take place on 18 and 19 May.

It was organised after Scottish first minister Alex Salmond wrote to prime minister David Cameron last May calling for an exercise in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster one year ago, to make sure the UK had the capacity to cope with such a deep water incident.

More recently a House of Commons energy and climate change select committee inquiry into a Deepwater Horizon-style oil spill west of Shetland found it would be virtually impossible to clean up the resulting pollution in the rough seas in the area, suggesting the focus should be on prevention rather than cure.

Last year the UK government set up a planning group for next month's exercise involving the emergency services, government agencies, the local authority and the oil industry.

US oil giant Chevron, who are exploring for oil in the deep water Lagavulin prospect 100 miles north of Shetland, signed up for it even before they were targeted by environmental campaigners Greenpeace in Lerwick harbour last September.

The exercise will involve representatives from both UK and Scottish governments, environmental protection agency SEPA, Shetland Islands Council, the police and the fishing industry, as well as trades body Oil & Gas UK.

Exercise director Murray Milligan, who is the MCA’s regional resilience co-ordinator based in Dover, came to Shetland last month to discuss logistics with the council’s emergency planning department.

Mr Milligan said the first day would simulate “a deteriorating offshore drilling related scenario” that would involve a wide range of people having to respond to “real time” events.

A shoreline response centre (SRC) will be set up in Shetland, with an operational control unit (OCU) and marine response centre (MRC) based in Aberdeen.

“The SRC is there to make sure that everything happens on the ground where oil is coming ashore, while the other centres are just there to tell other people to do things,” he said.

“In real life this would not last for just two days and it would be considered then to move the MRC to Shetland.”
The second day will be a “table top” exercise simulating events six days after the oil spill to plan for what should be done next.

There will also be a demonstration of all the counter pollution equipment stored at Sella Ness, where the council runs the Sullom Voe oil port.

 

2011 Election - Scott backs fishing manifesto

LibDem candidate Tavish Scott targeted the fishing vote on Wednesday, backing the Scottish Fishermen Federation’s manifesto calling for a better deal for the industry.

He said fish catching, fish farming and fish processing businesses provided “vital jobs across the islands” and that his party “want to assist growth in all sectors, including the inshore fishing industry”.

As well as joining the universal condemnation of the Common Fisheries Policy and call for more regional management, he promised a review of the new government agency Marine Scotland to establish “whether there is a conflict in the functions of scientific adviser to government, fisheries enforcement and management of fisheries regulation”.

To tackle discards he dismissed the SNP’s conservation credit scheme, saying “we need to consult meaningfully with the industry to develop a workable scheme”.

He would also reconvene the Fisheries Fuel Taskforce to help the industry handle soaring fuel costs.

Mr Scott promised to review the functions of the Crown Estate to whom the aquaculture industry pay a seabed rent and to allow local council’s to provide a one stop shop for fish farmers at minimum cost.

“At the heart of our policies is the aim to create a sustainable industry producing and selling high quality seafood backed by quality and sustainability accreditation,” he said.

 

In brief for 6 April

Tesco power cut

LERWICK’S Tesco supermarket has been counting the cost of Tuesday’s five and a half hour power cut which forced it to close the store and dump a huge quantity of chilled and frozen food.

A power circuit within the store is believed to have been the source of the problem, which switched electricity off between 10.30am and 4pm.

Manager Paul Clelland was not available for comment, but on Wednesday a Tesco spokeswoman confirmed: "There was a power failure which affected the store.  The power was restored in the afternoon and we've already begun restocking relevant ranges."

 

Nesting fire

BRAE and Scalloway fire crews were called out to Nesting on Wednesday afternoon when a blaze destroyed a caravan and a wooden shed at Eswick. A nearby car was also damaged but no one as injured.

 

Mossbank cars damaged

POLICE in Shetland are looking for those responsible for damaging a number of cars parked at Leaside and Sandside, in Firth/Mossbank overnight between Monday and Tuesday.

Anyone with information can contact Lerwick police station on 01595 692110.

 

Shellfishery makes a stand

SHETLAND Shellfish Management Organisation (SSMO) and the NAFC Marine Centre, in Scalloway, are compiling detailed information on the economic value of the local shellfishery.

The information will feed into the Shetland Spatial Plan (http://www.nafc.ac.uk/Marine-Atlas-Data-Downloads.aspx). It is seen as crucial in fighting the fishing community’s corner when large marine developments are proposed.

SSMO officer Jennifer Mouat said the plan already contained detailed information on the distribution of shellfisheries around Shetland, but it did not provide any information on the areas that are most important in terms of their economic and social sustainability.

“It is currently possible to describe the importance of an area in terms of the shellfish that are taken from it each year if a proposed energy development, marine protected area or other reason was proposed to restrict access to it, but it would not be possible to say what the social impact would be in terms of sustaining employment, families and communities,” she said. 

“We want to be able to proactively provide such information so that we can best represent our members’ interests.”

 

Sign up for Da Redd Up

SHETLAND Amenity Trust said on Wednesday that more than 3,000 volunteers had already registered for this year isles-wide spring clean up, which will take place on 16 and 17 April.

Organiser Sita Hughson added that there was still time to join the fun of Da Voar Redd Up by contacting her at the trust on 01595 69 4688 or emailing info@shetlandamenity.org

For those groups already registered, packs containing gloves, bags, safety vests, etc. are awaiting collection from the trust’s offices at Garthspool, in Lerwick.

Ms Hughson said: “Groups are also reminded to inform the trust after their Redd Up is finished so the collection of bruck can be undertaken as soon as possible. 

“Shetland Amenity Trust will have four environmental improvement teams deployed to collect the huge amount of Redd Up bruck for safe disposal and recycling from all parts of Shetland.”

 

Glasgow rockers return

GLASGOW two piece rock band The Fire and I return to Shetland this Friday for a gig at the British Legion showcasing their debut album Stampede Finale.

The duo won fans when they last appeared in Shetland supporting local émigrés Oscar Charlie two years ago.

One former Oscar Charlie member is in new band The Last, who play support on Friday.
 
Tickets are still available from High Level Music in Lerwick priced £10 and doors open at 9.30pm.

 

Income tax

LOCAL MP Alistair Carmichael welcomed income tax changes he claimed would put £200 back in the pockets of around 18,000 people in the northern isles.

This week’s £1,000 increase of the income tax threshold to £7,475 was the first step towards the Liberal Democrat commitment to raise the threshold to £10,000, he said. A further rise is promised in 2012.

Mr Carmichael said that as a result around 800 people in Shetland and Orkney would not have to pay any income tax at all, with 18,000 in line for a tax cut.

 

Renewables fund warning

PEOPLE wanting to raise money to install renewable energy systems are being reminded applications for the low risk Communities and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) loan fund close on 30 April.

The CARES fund is designed to help people in rural Scotland through the difficult pre-planning stage for schemes that have a community element.

The fund offers loans of up to £150,000 to cover 90 per cent of the early costs which are repayable at a commercial rate if the scheme receives planning permission. If planning permission fails the loan is written off.

The CARES scheme also offers free advice and support at a local level. More details and an application form can be found at www.communityenergyscotland.org.uk/cares.asp

New displays at the museum

WaistcoatSHETLAND Museum and Archives have unveiled three new display cases featuring an 18th century waistcoat, a folding ‘scrap screen’ and a portrayal of the story of fox and mink farming in the isles.

The first display tells the story of fox and mink farming from the 1930s to the 1970s, when fur was a popular fashion accessory and Shetland contributed to the fur trade.

It includes a stole made from Zetland Silver Fox Farm pelt, and a Palamino mink stole loaned by Andrew and Davina Morrison who owned the Whiteness mink farm.

The couple also loaned a red woollen coat with white mink trim, handmade by Mrs Morrison for her six year old daughter Dianne.

The second display is a folding screen, often used in Victorian and Edwardian homes as a room divider or modesty screen. Screens were often decorated, like this one, by the popular pastime of ‘scrapping’ collected postcards, cigarette cards or other colourful and humorous images.

The beautifully decorated waistcoat from Papa Stour (top left) and a scrap screen from the South Haa, in North Roe - all photos: Davy Cooper, Shetland Amenity Trust

This screen is thought to come from the South Haa in North Roe and to have been made by Jane Burgess and her daughters, around 1910.

The final new display contains the oldest complete garment in the museum collection which can only be displayed after expert conservation. 

The beautifully restored silk embroidered waistcoat belonged to William Henderson, the laird’s estate factor in Papa Stour before he died in 1799. It was donated by his great, great, great, great granddaughter, Elizabeth Morewood, from Mid Yell.

 

Ex champion opens junior golf range

Paul_Lawrie_at_Shetland_Golf_ClubSHETLAND Golf Club celebrated a real scoop on Wednesday when former British Open champion Paul Lawrie OBE visited the isles to launch the club’s new junior coaching facilities.

Lawrie, a keen supporter of structured junior golf coaching, agreed to come to Shetland after playing with local club members at a competition open to professionals and amateurs last year.

On Wednesday, in front of a large crowd of young and not so young golf enthusiasts, he cut the ribbon to officially open the new £5,000 development, with a junior driving range, practice nets, mats and three greens for pitching and putting.

The investment follows a major recruitment drive, which has seen the number of junior club members soar from 26 to 80 over the last two years.

The 1999 British Open champion held everyone’s attention as he went through a series of practice shot as part of his coaching clinic (Photo by Malcolm Younger of Millgaet Media)

“I am delighted to be opening this facility at Shetland Golf Club. It is fantastic to see projects like this in the islands and I am sure this will be a huge success.  Everybody involved should feel very proud of what they have achieved,” he said.

“It is my first time in Shetland, so I am looking forward to getting out playing five holes with the kids later this afternoon.”

He added that football was traditionally the main sport in Scotland, but much effort was going into encouraging young people to play golf. “I think there is quite a lot of football here, but they are trying to build up the golf numbers,” he said.

Shetland Golf Club captain Erik Burgess said the new facility, built with the help of a grant from sportscotland, will make a huge difference to what the club can offer juniors in coaching.

“We can now split them up into four or five groups. Some can go to the driving range, others to the driving nets or the pitch and putt green. By breaking the group down into smaller numbers we get to spend more time with them and can dedicate more time to individual kids,” he said.

Shetland Golf Club is one of 322 clubs in Scotland offering ‘clubgolf’ coaching, Scotland’s legacy for staging the 2014 Ryder Cup.

Alan Harcus, junior convener at the club, added: "This facility is just what Shetland Golf Club needs as our junior membership has increased fourfold in the last couple of years.

“Having a purpose built practice area will help develop golf in the club without restricting other members’ use of the course,” he said.

“The enthusiasm of the kids is very good and their development because of this has been excellent.

“Several of the junior members have now reached a standard where they are also able to compete in the gents competitions. This is testament to their commitment and hard work throughout the last few years.”

Lerwick vet stays closed after Westside takeover

Lerwick_Veterinary_PracticeANIMAL owners needing a vet in Shetland are being asked to phone ahead to avoid delays, after the Lerwick practice was taken over by the islands’ other vet service based in Bixter last week.

Westside Vets confirmed on Wednesday that they had purchased the Lerwick practice, which called in the receivers two weeks ago.

They have appointed a new locum vet to work at their Bixter surgery and have taken on the former owner of the Lerwick practice Jim Tait on a part time basis to help at their Scalloway surgery, bringing the number of trained vets up to six.

The new owners have not bought the old company’s building at 39 Commercial Road, Lerwick, which is owned by former vet Edwin Moar.

To cope with the extra demand Westside Vets have extended their opening hours at Scalloway by half a day a week and employed one receptionist from the Lerwick practice to help.

The new locum vet Alice Bacon has worked in the western isles for the past 18 months, so has experience in the kind of work needed in Shetland.

Westside Vets director Juliet Nicolson said they had taken on all of the Lerwick surgery’s clients, practically doubling their clientele, which is bringing a lot of extra work during the busiest time of year with lambing and calving going on.

“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time of year and at the moment we have just got our heads down and are getting on with the work. A strategy will have to come later,” Mrs Nicolson said.

“I would imagine we will look at recruiting new staff, but we have not got time to train completely new reception staff so the fact that someone from Lerwick was available was useful.”

The Scalloway surgery will now be open on four full days a week and two half days, an increase of half a day. “As we increase staff we can increase the hours,” Mrs Nicolson said.

In the meantime she asked clients to be patient and to phone in advance, especially if they want medication, as a vet has to be available to dispense drugs. “We are finding that people are turning up at the desk and they might have a long wait,” she said.

The Lerwick practice was opened in 1961 by Edwin Moar, who took over from David Clouston as the islands’ only vet.

Jim Tait took over the business in 2003 after working as Mr Moar’s assistant for two years.

Westside Vets opened their Bixter surgery in 1985 and the Scalloway surgery was opened in 2000.

Tavish launches LibDem manifesto

FIGHTING centralisation, tackling the housing shortage, restoring the Air Discount Scheme for business travellers and improving rural broadband are the main planks of Liberal Democrat candidate Tavish Scott’s campaign for re-election in Shetland on 5 May.

After launching the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto as party leader, Mr Scott said his party’s policies were realistic and included several of direct relevance to the islands.

“The shortage of affordable housing remains an important issue. Despite the sterling efforts of the Hjaltland Housing Association and of the council we still need more affordable homes. I have made sure that our manifesto includes new funding for social housing. I want to make sure Shetland gets its rightful share of this,” he said.

“As the impact of the SNP cuts to the Air Discount Scheme starts to bite on businesses, public bodies and the voluntary sector, I commit to restoring the scheme so that business travel is once again covered.

“Our commitment to provide funding to help to get superfast broadband to places which the market cannot reach is also a key policy with the potential to bring real benefits to homes and businesses. I want to see this funding being used to help Shetland Broadband deliver broadband across the isles.

“Our policies for the local delivery of services are particularly relevant in the islands where the potential for the other party’s centralising agenda to damage vital services is greatest. Whether it is our fire and police services, or even social care, only the Scottish Liberal Democrats can be relied upon to oppose Central Belt centralisation.”

 

 

 

Fencing for Scotland

TWO Shetland fencers have been selected for the Scotland B team to fence against the Republic of Ireland next month.

Sophie Drosso will join the ladies’ foil team after her success at the Edinburgh International, last weekend, when she came seventh.

Meanwhile Stephen Rocks has been selected for the men's sabre team thanks to his consistently good results over the last months.

The competition will be held on 27 May at the Inverclyde Open.

Golfing legend opens junior driving range

PaulLawrieSCOTTISH golfing legend Paul Lawrie OBE will be in Shetland on Wednesday to open new junior golf facilities at Shetland Golf Club, just outside Lerwick.

The former Open Champion will also host a question and answer session with the club’s juniors and play some holes with them.

The new facility, funded by £5,000 from sportscotland, comprises a junior driving range, practice nets, mats and three greens for pitching and putting.

The investment is the culmination of years of hard work by club members who became qualified volunteer coaches and were able to increase the number of junior s from 26 to now 80.

In brief for 5 April

Fair Isle makkin furiously

Lowri Best kepFAIR ISLE knitters plan to re-enact their age-old tradition of bartering knitwear for goods onboard passing ships, when the Tall Ships Race visits Shetland this July.

The famous island halfway between Orkney and Shetland is a guest harbour in the Cruise in Company leg of the event between Greenock and Lerwick.

Event organiser Jimmy Stout said: "The women of Fair Isle are ‘makkin’ [knitting] furiously in preparation for the event, hand-knitting traditional fishermen’s ‘keps’ [hats] to barter with the passing tall ships. 

“This is a great way for Fair Isle to celebrate and bring to life an important part of the island’s history, when yoals would intercept passing sailing ships and trade fresh and knitted goods for luxuries like new clothes, flour, tea, brandy and other essentials unavailable on the island.”

One Fair Isle resident Annie Thomson, who has been knitting for 85 years, is already on her fifth hat for the visiting ships.

 

MP praise pension changes

NORTHERN isles MP Alistair Carmichael has praised the proposed overhaul of the state pension scheme which would give everybody above retiring age a flat rate pension of £140 per week.

The LibDem MP, a member of the coalition government, said the reforms would ensure that people are getting the financial support they are entitled to.

“It has been clear for some time that the existing state pension simply is not working for many older people around the UK. The complexity of the current system has left many pensioners unaware of exactly what support they are entitled to receive.

“It is also wrong that men and women who have been forced to take time out from work to raise their families should be penalised as a result. The plans set out on Monday would help reduce the inequality that has seen many women receive thousands of pounds per year less than their male contemporaries,” Mr Carmichael said.

 

Norwegian consul

PROMINENT fishing businessman John Goodlad has been appointed as the new Honorary Consul for Norway in Lerwick, succeeding Laurence John Smith, who has retired.

The former Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive and salmon farm managing director is currently chairman of processing firms Shetland Catch and Shetland Fish Products, as well as chairing the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group.

Mr Goodlad is a member of a number of international fisheries organisations and is well known within the Norwegian seafood industry.

 

Health warning

NHS SHETLAND is joining the national campaign to warn people to take care of their health over the Easter period when some surgeries may be closed.

Director of clinical services Simon Bokor-Ingram said: “With so many school and public holidays during April, it’s important to be prepared to look after your health. This includes knowing when your GP surgery is open, planning ahead if you do need repeat prescriptions and making sure your medicine cabinet is well stocked with common remedies.

“As well as stocking the remedies you might need for coughs, colds, allergies or minor injuries, local pharmacies can also provide useful advice on how to stay healthy this spring.”

 

A lotta years on da lifeboat

RNLI reunion: Back row (left to right) John Sinclair, Peter Thomson, Kenny Pearson, Robert Wiseman, Richie Simpson, Ian Fraser, Neil Clark, John Clark, Malcolm Craigie, Theo Nicolson. Front row (left to right) Ray Leask, Hewitt Clark, Brian Miles CBE, Magnie Shearer, Billy Clark - Photo: Dave Donaldson

MORE than 250 years of experience on the Lerwick lifeboat was gathered together at the weekend for an annual dinner at the Scalloway Hotel, with former RNLI director Brian Miles CBE as guest of honour.

The 13 former crew members assembled included three ex coxswains, four second coxwains who had served on the lifeboat between 1956 and 2009.

Branch chairman Magnie Shearer said: “It was an honour to welcome Brian Miles to the Annual Dinner, while he was briefly in Shetland visiting friends. It was great for all of us to be able to get back together again on this special occasion.”
 

Wind farm grinds through planning system

Cullivoe wind farm photomontageA SHETLAND community group planning to build a £6 million wind farm on the isle of Yell hope to find out if they can go ahead this month, eight years after they started work on the project.

North Yell Development Company’s plans for a five turbine development generating 4.5 megawatts of power started life in 2003, but have been held up over the past year by delays in the local council’s planning process.

Besieged by major proposals for the 127 turbine Viking Energy wind farm and Total’s £500 million gas plant at Sullom Voe, planning officers with Shetland Islands Council have been struggling to cope.

NYDC submitted an addendum to their original application in July 2010 and should have received a response within eight weeks. Planners asked them to be patient and wait until December, but this week the organisation had still not heard about their application.

On Tuesday SIC development management manager John Holden confirmed the Yell wind farm would come before the SIC’s planning board on 20 April.

He said the application was one of many which had been held back due to the sheer workload facing a planning authority where the economy has been bucking the national trend.

“We have been faced with the challenge of some quite exceptional proposals in terms of their scale and complexity. When you could say that the rest of the country is facing a downturn, we are not seeing that here,” Mr Holden said.

While the planning department has been under huge pressure to process the applications of major importance to the Shetland economy, many projects have been held back - some much longer than the nine months it is taking to deal with the NYDC addendum.

Now the department is setting up a new web-based planning system which will allow applicants to follow their case online, keeping up with every aspect of its progress.

Similar systems operate in most Scottish authorities, freeing staff from dealing with enquiries so they can get on with other work.

However introducing the new system is also taking up staff time and adding to the delays. The deadline for its launch has already slipped from this month to July.

“You have to invest the time to reap the benefit in the future,” Mr Holden said. “Hopefully this new system will be able to get all the old applications out of the way.”

Meanwhile NYDC secretary Andrew Nisbet is hoping the planning board approves the wind farm this month so it can take advantage of the new NINES smart grid network being planned in Shetland by Scottish & Southern Energy.

Having spent £6,000 on a peatslide survey of their site for the addendum, which was carried out by The Forestry Commission, they are hoping they won’t be facing any more bureaucratic hurdles.

“We feel quite annoyed about the delay,” Mr Nisbet said. “It’s not going to hold back the wind farm because we’re still waiting for a grid connection, but we really do need that decision now so if there is a possibility of participating in the ‘smart grid’ we would be ready to go.”

Most of the funding to build the wind farm will be from bank loans. Mr Nisbet said the banks were enthusiastic about the project, but were waiting for planning permission to be granted before making any commitments.

Kenny’s fiddle firm flies high

LinndA NEW musical instrument business setting up in Lerwick hopes to create up to six new jobs manufacturing fiddles and accessories.

Pure Acoustic Ltd brings together successful Shetland electric fiddle maker Kenny Johnson, of Skyinbow Ltd, with two men based in the south of England with distinguished careers in music manufacturing and business.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise are backing the enterprise which expects to have a £2 million turnover within three years making and selling fiddles, pick ups and shoulder rests.

Fellow director Bob Thomas (on the right in the picture), who was born in Shetland but left when he was nine years old, is hoping the new business will be his passport to return to his native isles.

His career in business and financial management in the musical instrument and electronic industry has seen him become a past president of the UK Musical Industries Association.

Richard Gleave (left), founder of the major international business ARK Geophysics, has pursued a parallel career as a guitarist and semi-professional performing musician.

On Tuesday Mr Johnson flies to Germany to launch his new Linnd shoulder rest design for violins and violas in Frankfurt. The word is pronounced ‘lin-dee’, from the Shetland dialect for ‘rest ye’.

The company believe the design should capture one third of the global market with its sturdy but light design that improves the sound of the instrument while staying in position.

The range of Skyinbow instruments is to be expanded, with lower cost fabricated models to complement the current range of handmade designs.

The company will also market a range of new Skyinbow Pure Acoustic pickup systems which have already started production.

HIE have provided £48,554 towards the start up costs of £121,385 which will pay for tooling and equipment, moulds and patents.

The principal base for manufacturing, design and research and development will be in Lerwick, while larger scale manufacturing will be carried out on the UK mainland and eastern Europe. The company’s sales and business offices will be in Leighton Buzzard.

Mr Johnson said that he was pleased to be able to establish a company on this scale, having earned a global reputation for manufacturing and design that was never matched by business success.

“Craft and tradition lie at the heart of this business, but it is our ability to exploit modern design and engineering techniques in pursuit of that craft that makes this venture unique," he said.

Mr Thomas added: “The shoulder rest market is very large worldwide, and we reckon we can achieve 30 per cent of the market within two years.

“When you fit the Linnd on the fiddle you need very little pressure to keep it in place. We thought we were solving the problem of the shoulder rest falling off and we discovered we had solved the problem of conventional shoulder rests stopping the back of the violin vibrating freely, so our shoulder rest sounds better than a conventional one.”

He said the Skyinbow pickups were the best he had worked with since he started using pickups in 1972. “I think we have cracked something quite dramatic,” he said

“We expect to put on about six jobs in the next two or three years in Shetland, about four in pick up and fiddle assembly and two administrative.

“One of the drivers for me is that I want to come back and live in Shetland after leaving in 1959.”

Teenager falls from Lerwick balcony

A SIXTEEN year old was rushed to hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning after he fell from a second floor balcony at a house in Upper Sound, Lerwick.

Police said that the teenager escaped with minor cuts and bruises and kept in hospital overnight for observation.

A 19 year old woman was also taken to hospital in the early hours of Sunday after concerns were raised about her state of drunkenness at Lerwick’s Knab Road.

In the early hours of Saturday police served a fixed penalty on a 21 year old man for anti social behaviour after an ongoing disturbance at a house in Grostane, Lerwick.

Two fixed penalties were served on men aged 20 and 24 for urinating in a public place in Lerwick on Saturday, one in the early hours on Commercial Street, the other at midnight on Commercial Road.

 

Inside Mareel

Mareel was originally to open next month. Weather delays has put that back, but Pete Bevington was given exclusive access to the steel clad building taking shape on the Lerwick shoreline. Here’s what he thought of it:

Mareel_march_2011THE OPENING date may still be a matter for the bookies, but one thing is for sure – when Shetland’s new cinema and music venue opens it is going to be a very busy place.

Now that local firm DITT are reaching the final stages of the first construction phase, Mareel is beginning to look like the arts centre it will eventually become by the end of this year.

Step inside the building site that it still is, imagine beyond the pipes and wires and grey slab walls, and you get a feeling of how exciting a place it is going to be.

It is a building of boxes, the three main ones being acoustically protected so well that when Bruce Willis blows up a 3D skyscraper in the cinema, the audience enjoying a live performance of Chopin’s Minute Waltz a few yards away won’t hear him.

Nor will the students producing a demo tape for a trio of fiddlers in the recording studio as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands music course, featuring the only Pro Tools Academy in the north of Scotland – sign up now before all 16 places are taken.

Alongside these three boxes will be a long café/bar open from 8am til late serving snacks and drinks in a comfy zone featuring free wi-fi and space for up to 80 people to enjoy impromptu club nights for folkies, jazzers or lovers of comedy.

The first thing that hits you is the height of the space. The foyer that opens on Mareel’s landward side stretches way, way up above your head, and way above the heads of those already standing on its balcony.

Designers Gareth Hoskins Architects had a lot of entertainment to squeeze into a relatively small footprint. They have managed to do so by looking upwards.

Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons (right) and Mareel head of operations Richard Weymss standing where the back row will be in the cinema, while workmen are busy working on the wiring in the ceiling.

That means the 161 people packed in to the cinema 1 (or the 37 in Cinema 2) for the final Harry Potter movie when it appears will be on quite a steep slope; that way short people won’t be bothered by the tall man in front.

Likewise an audience who might watch a live performance from Covent Garden, streamed via the fibre optic cable into the main auditorium, will be well elevated in the retractable seats they occupy. There will be seats for 341 people at a concert, including 85 upstairs.

Take those seats away and there will be room for 700 people to fill the fully-sprung dancefloor for the next live performance by Mumford & Sons when they return to sample Shetland spirit in all its glory.

With 177 individual events being planned every year alongside the four daily screenings in the main cinema, plus extra shows in the smaller second cinema, Mareel will be an extremely busy place.

“We’ll have to be busy,” said head of operations Richard Wemyss, who took on the job of preparing to run the building at the beginning of the year.

“Mareel will need to make money because there will be no running subsidy. We have to make it work commercially, as a social enterprise.”

The business plan, he said, is under constant review. “It’s been scrutinised by so many people and it’s constantly being looked at, so the confidence is there that it’s going to be a success. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be a success.”

A lot of thought has gone into packing as much variety as possible into this relatively compact space.

For example there will be specialist film screenings for older folk, for mothers and toddlers and for schools. The building’s design allows more than a single event in one evening - a crowd of 14 year old disco dancers could stream out of one door, while a bunch of leather jacketed heavy metal fans stream in through the other.

DITT workmen enter the entrance foyer after their lunchbreak. The wooden frames in the foreground will hold the glass that will feature a sculpture of living light. The builders are still waiting for the crane and the weather to install the heavy glass

Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons is confident the venue will do well. He says cinema audiences around the country are growing again, while demand for live music is also on the up.

“There are more touring acts than ever before because live music seems to be what people are looking for at the moment,” he said.

It will be an attractive place to perform, not just because of its harbour location, but because of the state of the art technology built into the space.

“Artists will be able to capture live content through the recording studio and then download it into their next album, or put out a live track on their website.

“With the fibre optic link music can be sent anywhere in the world, so we’re seeing things like performances having their sound engineered somewhere completely different. That’s something X Factor do.

“We’ll be able to stream live concerts from the Met in New York, or have musicians performing simultaneously in Mareel and, say, The Sage in Newcastle. We’ve even been exploring ideas around holding sessions with traditional musicians in Shetland and somewhere like Nova Scotia playing at the same time.”

Modern communications technology is opening up all kinds of new areas, which will not be lost on the younger generation. One plan is to use the building for internet gaming competitions on the big screen.

There are more spaces within the complex – a dance space, a teaching space with an audio visual editing suite, dressing rooms, offices, storage space for everything from Shetland Arts’ Steinway grand piano, currently stored at Lerwick Town hall, to popcorn and natchos for the movie goers.

Groups are already signing up to use Mareel with plans for monthly jazz sessions, a local promoter is planning a club night, a regular programme of classical concerts is in the pipeline and the young promoters group have their own ideas for pushing live music to the fore. Someone has asked to record an album in the recording studio already, and folk are even booking it for their weddings.

Mareel will raise its profile in the world of cinema when the Shetland movie Between Weathers records its soundtrack and completes post production work on the premises before launching itself as the must-see Scottish movie of the year.

Meanwhile the builders are still screwing panels to walls and fixing wires to ceilings, and resolving the problems caused by the weather and the economy.

The poor winter delayed deliveries of materials from the mainland, a Glasgow roofing contractor went bust before the work was completed and there are more local complications too.

Upstairs in the long cafe/bar, the slanted window on the left blends in with the shape of the cinema roof when seen from Hay's Dock. The window at the far end looks out towards Holmsgarth and the NorthLink ferry berth. Here will be comfy seats and free wi-fi.

Several large sections of very expensive glass have been brought to Shetland to install in the building’s front wall to create “a sculpture of living light”, based around the Mirrie Dancers project from 2009.

Site manager Leejay Butcher explained that there is only one crane in Shetland large enough to lift these glass sections, and that crane is being monopolised by the oil industry at Sullom Voe right now.

“We had a window to use it the other week, but it wasn’t weather for swinging large pieces of expensive glass around,” he said.

It’s a complicated project involving five or six specialist contractors, but Butcher seems calm about the way it is going. “The tricky aspect has been the weather which really hasn’t been kind to us, but the first fix is more or less done now.”

The naysayers will no doubt keep warning of calamity ahead, of white elephants and worse, but at the moment it’s steady at the tiller for the last piece in the jigsaw of oil funded facilities that help to make Shetland such an attractive place to live for young and old alike.

New fund to cut community group’s power bills

A NEW £400,000 scheme to help community groups in Shetland save money by improving energy efficiency has been launched in the isles.

The two year programme is being joint funded by Shetland Islands Council and the European LEADER Fund, and is being run in conjunction with Community Energy Scotland.

It follows a questionnaire put out by the Shetland Halls Association about electricity bills in the islands’ 100 community buildings, which revealed some were spending as much as £15,000 on power.

SIC sports and leisure services manager Neil Watt said the new Community Energy Efficiency Programme (CEEP) was designed to fill a gap that left community groups unable to apply for assistance in the same way as households and businesses.

The CEEP fund will be able to help with small scale energy efficiency projects, such as loft insulation, energy efficient lighting, thermal blinds and “smart” technologies that reduced consumption.

It can also be used to help towards the installation of small scale renewables, such as a wind turbine, solar panels or ground/air source heat pumps.

“The higher the energy bills are, the more difficult it is to heat the buildings so people stop using them and income falls. This is designed to break that spiral of decline,” Mr Watt said.

The scheme will make £200,000 available each year to organisations such as youth centres, boating clubs, community halls, heritage centres, youth hostels, changing facilities, community museums and history groups.

There are two stages to the fund, the first paying up to 90 per cent of the cost of independent advice on energy efficiency up to a maximum of £2,000. The second pays up to 75 per cent for work to be completed, with an upper limit of £40,000.

Jennifer Nicolson, of Community Energy Scotland, said people should contact their local community worker if they were interested in the scheme.

She said that she knew of youth centres in Shetland that had introduced “background heating” who had more than halved their electricity bills.

Coastguard petition shows strength of feeling

IMG_8994aCAMPAIGNERS fighting to save the Lerwick coastguard station from government cuts handed over a huge petition containing around 13,500 signatures to northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael on a cold April morning in the town.

The signatures have been gathered in local shops and businesses, online and in Orkney over the past three months since the consultation on closing Lerwick or Stornoway station began.

Earlier this month the government extended the consultation until 5 May, while the House of Commons transport select committee is accepting submissions to its inquiry into the plans until 26 April.

PCS union branch chairwoman Alex Dodge (left in the picture with Mike Smith of PCS; Alistair Carmichael MP and Lee Coutts, chairman of Save Our Station - Photo: Shetland News) said it was important for people to keep the pressure on the government to save the coastguard from closure or being turned into a daytime only station.

“This is not finished yet. People must continue to keep the pressure up on the government to make sure they don’t shut Shetland coastguard. We can’t afford to lose the skills we have in the ops room,” she said.

Mr Carmichael, who has consistently opposed the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s modernisation plans, said: “I think that this petition, with this tremendous number of signatures, sends a very clear view that the coastguard has yet to persuade this community.”

Salmon power - a new green energy concept

Salmon_smolt_powerA FORMER Shetland salmon farmer has been exploring ways of cutting his fuel bills by using the power of the fish he is growing.

Davy Tulloch, of Yadsløf Salmon AS, off Norway’s west coast, has been experimenting for the past two years with a turbine he has installed beneath a specially designed fish cage in the company’s hatchery.

Salmon smolts swim around the cage creating a vortex that turns the turbine, generating small amounts of power.

Mr Tulloch, who left Shetland to work in the Norwegian industry eight years ago, said the turbine was generating enough power to light the building in which the hatchery is based.

He hopes to be able to perfect the design so the fish can produce even more power to run the machines that feed the fish, and even has plans to take the device offshore.

“The principle is really simple. The fish swim round and round and create a whirlpool effect and all I am trying to do is harness that energy,” he said.

“With fuel costs increasing all the time, we are having to look at every possible way we can of producing power from whatever sources are available.

“It’s going to be a challenge offshore where the currents can be so strong, but there may be possibilities to use my ideas to create micro tidal schemes around offshore fish farms that can be used to power feed barges. That would be a huge breakthrough.”

Mr Tulloch has already contacted the Shetland Renewable Energy Forum’s new development officer Robin Sampson to see if the industry in his native islands might be interested in his ideas.

Mr Sampson said: “This is an entirely new concept, but the principles are relatively straight forward. We need as many as many ideas as possible to meet the government’s renewables targets and this could be a real help to the aquaculture industry in the isles.”

Coastguard campaigners amass 13,500 signatures

CAMPAIGNERS behind the fight to protect the Lerwick coastguard station from government cuts claim to have collected the biggest petition in the isles’ history.

Around 13,500 people have signed the Save Our Station (SOS) petition calling for the Lerwick co-ordinating centre to be kept open 24 hours a day.

The petition will be handed to northern isles MP and deputy chief whip Alistair Carmichael at 12.15pm on Friday.

Mr Carmichael has promised to present the petition to the House of Commons transport select committee, which is running an inquiry into the government’s plans to close 10 of its 19 coastguard stations, leaving just two 24 hour operations in Aberdeen and Southampton.

Under the proposals either Lerwick or Stornoway station would close and be turned into a daytime only service.

PCS union representative and SOS member Alex Dodge thanked the public for their backing of the campaign.

“The support from the people of Shetland and Orkney and further afield has been absolutely amazing and it has really helped us through our campaign knowing that we have the island communities behind us,” Ms Dodge said.
The campaigners were further encouraged by a debate in Westminster hall last week attended by MPs from nine political parties, including ones from Northern Ireland.

Shipping minister Mike Penning has said that he believes the proposals will change once the consultation has ended in May and prime minister David Cameron has given assurances that front line services will be maintained at current levels.

 

Seal protection laws raise new questions

THE SCOTTISH government is asking local people to identify sites where seals haul out so they can be given greater protection.

However the move has been criticised by conservationists who claim that new legislation to protect seals in Scotland is little more than a token gesture.

The government’s new Marine (Scotland) Act has already aroused controversy by issuing licences to fish farmers, netsmen and anglers to shoot a limited number of seals within a given area.

Now the government has identified 146 sites around Scotland where seals haul out, which they intend to designate as specially protected. These include 31 sites in Shetland, 24 of which are used by common seals, six by greys and one which is shared by both species.

The government says that these designations will give seals even greater protection, and have asked people to identify additional sites that should be considered to join the list.

Wildlife campaigners have questioned why seals should not be fully protected wherever they haul out.

In Shetland, Jan Bevington, of Hillswick Wildlife Sanctuary, said: “Where does this leave the seals who don’t haul out at those designated sites?

“I am especially concerned about the common seals whose numbers have declined hugely. They are about to start their pupping season and we don’t even have a closed season to protect them any more.

“I would urge people to tell the government about any places where they know that seals do haul out, but the big question is who is going to police or monitor any of this.”

The consultation runs until 21 June and details can be found at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/03/22093944/0 . Responses to the consultation can be sent to SealHaul-out@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.

Wildlife campaign group Marine Concern is attempting to coordinate responses to the consultation at www.marineconcern.com.

Mark Carter, who runs the organisation, said: “We have been repeatedly told by both government and Scottish ministers that seals will be given better protection under the new act, but Scottish seals are not that well protected at all.”

The list of sites was drawn up by Marine Scotland, Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland Science.

Marine Scotland have also asked for people to tell them about anywhere there is a “potential risk of harassment to seals on any individual sites”, including industrial developments, leisure and tourism.

SNH principal adviser on marine ecology John Baxter said the new legislation was “a significant step forward” from the earlier Conservation of Seals Act.

Busta boats broken into

POLICE in Shetland are investigating damage caused to two boats berthed at the harbour in Busta, near Brae, during the winter.

A police statement issued on Thursday said the damage was caused some time between 21 December and 21 February and that a number of items were stolen from the boats, along with a vehicular trailer from an industrial park in the area.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the police on 01595 692110

 

Airport car park charges on hold

PLANS to impose car parking charges at Sumburgh and other airports in the north of Scotland have been put on hold following the public outcry they caused.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) managing director Inglis Lyon confirmed on Thursday that they were not actively pursuing the proposal, which was designed to help meet the £1 million shortfall in the organisation's government funding last year.

However Mr Lyon warned that if budget constraints continue then HIAL may have to look at the plan again. “There are no definite plans to introduce car parking charges at Sumburgh airport at this point in time and we have balanced the budget without any car parking charges being taken into account,” he said.

“Charges will however, continue to be seen as a possible source of income and the decision is always under review.”

The move raised such huge opposition in local communities throughout the region that HIAL could not muster the support to impose the charges.

In Orkney’s Kirkwall airport, HIAL had gone so far as to install the charging equipment, including barriers, but they have never been activated.

Kirkwall airport suffers from having a small car park that is frequently used by people who leave their cars for extended periods of time.

 

No risk as Fukushima radioactivity reaches Lerwick

MINUTE particles of radioactive iodine believed to have come from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power station in northern Japan have been traced in air samples taken in Shetland.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency reported on Thursday that their Lerwick high volume air sampler had detected radioactive iodine-131 above the town. Similar samples were found in East Kilbride, near Glasgow, this week.

SEPA’s radioactive substance specialist Paul Dale, based in Stirling, said the concentrations of iodine found in Lerwick and Glasgow posed no threat to health or the environment.

Dr Dale said: “There is no danger at all to human health. The monitoring programme is there in place and we will update the public when there is any more information available.”