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Loganair cancel all flights

LOGANAIR has cancelled all flight throughout its network today (Thursday), the airline said a few moments ago.

The company’s commercial director Jonathan Hinkles said: "As with other airlines operating in Scotland, Loganair has cancelled all flights throughout its network due to the safety risk posed by the volcanic ash being carried from Iceland by prevailing winds towards the UK.

"At this time, we do not expect to operate any services for the remainder of the day, however this situation could change as we receive updates from Scottish air traffic control.

Passengers booked on today's services will be able to:

*         Rebook on any flight within the next seven days where there are available seats, without any additional charge

*         Rebook for travel on any flight thereafter and pay any difference in fare

*         Obtain a refund for their journey if they decide not to travel in the future

"Our teams will continue to review the situation throughout the day and our customer service staff will do everything we can to assist passengers with their alternative travel plans."

Meanwhile, today’s inter-island flights to Skerries, operated by Directflight, have also been cancelled.

 

Volcano eruption closes all airports

ALL commercial aviation across the UK was grounded as an ash cloud, blown into the air by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull, drifted southeast wards and entered the UK air space, on Thursday.

Flights across the country are grounded until at least 6am on Friday morning when the situation will be reviewed again.

In Shetland, all Loganair flights were cancelled on Thursday and Sumburgh airport closed at 11.45am but remained on call for emergency flights.

There were no offshore flights from Scatsta airport, and inter-island flights from Tingwall were also grounded.

Loganair commercial director Jonathan Hinkles said: "As with other airlines operating in Scotland, Loganair has cancelled all flights throughout its network due to the safety risk posed by the volcanic ash being carried from Iceland by prevailing winds towards the UK.”

Passengers have been given the opportunity to re-book on other flights without any extra charge.

An island delegation destined for Edinburgh to negotiate government support for a council house building programme was grounded as a result of the cloud of volcanic ash.

And the launch of the election manifesto of the Scottish LibDems, scheduled for Friday morning in Scalloway, also fell victim to the Icelandic eruption.

Meanwhile, several people in the islands said they had distinctly noticed the sulphurous smell of rotten eggs in the air during the morning hours.

The huge ash cloud was blown into the atmosphere on Tuesday when the volcano in the Eyjafjallajoekull area of south Iceland erupted for the second time in a month.

Sandwick resident Joanne Jamieson said: “I noticed a smell in the house and wondered what it was. It was coming from the outside, so I opened the door. It was very strong, and I initially thought it was rotting seaweed.

“I looked down to the beach and actually looked up to see if the sky was falling in. I didn’t know what it was, and first thought it might be something local like a burst drain.

“Only when I got to school to drop my children off, I heard about the volcanic ash as parents were discussing the fact that the flights were off.”

Jane Matthews, from the same village said: “It smelt strongly like rotten eggs, but I didn’t put two and two together realising it was coming from Iceland. Initially I thought, maybe, it something to do with my young daughter, or the animals in the field.”

Director of public health in Shetland, Dr Sarah Taylor, said there was no immediate health risk associated with the ash cloud due to the distance between Shetland and Iceland.

She added that there were health concerns because planes were not flying and island residents were unable to attend pre-arranged hospital appointments in Aberdeen and elsewhere.

“These are the things that are of concern to us and not the direct risk around the ash,” she said.

In response to people smelling sulphur, she said: “The cloud will be a combination of gases and particles. Sulphur related gases are part of what erupted. But that doesn’t have a health hazard in itself, certainly not in the concentrations we are talking about here.”

Meanwhile, a meeting with the Scottish housing minister Alex Neil will have to be rescheduled after local politicians and council officials were unable to make it to Edinburgh.

The delegation was meant to present a plan on how Shetland Islands Council proposes to deal with its £45 million housing debts as a precondition to be able to negotiate government grants to help realising an ambitious £20 million council house building programme.

The geological event also wrecked plans by the Scottish LibDems to launch their election manifesto on board the Swan, in Scalloway harbour.

The party had to cancel the event as Tavish Scott, Shetland MSP and leader of the Scottish LibDems, was unable to fly from Edinburgh back to Shetland.

A constituents’ surgery Mr Scott had planned for Friday has now been postponed until Monday from 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

 

Gibson remanded in custody

SENTENCE on a Shetland man was deferred for three weeks after he pled guilty to five charges when he appeared from custody before Lerwick Sheriff Court, on Tuesday.

John Wood Gibson, described as a prisoner in Aberdeen, admitted attempting to break in to Grantfield Garage on 4 April and breaking in to council offices at Hayfield and stealing a memory stick on 5 April.

The 33 year old also admitted breaching the peace at the Gilbert Bain Hospital, in Lerwick, struggling violently with police officers in the hospital’s carpark, and making threats to police officers including that he was hepatitis C positive and would spit at them, that he would burn their wives and children, and that he would punch their wives and children should he meet them in public, all on 5 April.

Gibson was remanded in custody and is due to re-appear for sentencing on 5 May.

SLAP buys land at Staney Hill

A SIZEABLE piece of land just outside Lerwick has come under public ownership to help secure future housing and education developments.

SLAP, the property arm of the Shetland Charitable Trust, yesterday (Tuesday) announced that after many months of negotiations they had purchased over 70 acres of land from the inheritor of the Nicolson Estate for an undisclosed sum.

The land stretches between Pegasus Place/Unicorn View and the rugby pitch at Clickimin, and reaches to the Old North Road, Voder View and Burnside.

Some of the land is already earmarked for the new Anderson High School, and zoned for potential housing developments.

SLAP company secretary Jeff Goddard said the purchase was a strategic investment and would help Shetland Islands Council in its decision making on where to build future schools and affordable housing in Lerwick.

Head of the council’s housing department, Chris Medley, said the local authority had “no immediate short term plans” to develop affordable housing on the land purchased by SLAP.

The SIC’s current £20 million programme to build council houses at Hoofields, in Lerwick, and at a number of other locations throughout the isles may well have to be curtailed if negotiations with the Scottish government later this week come to no conclusion.

The council hopes to secure a £4 million slice of government funding, but the Scottish government has demanded the SIC demonstrates how it would rid itself of £45 million of housing debts, accumulated during the oil boom in the 70s, before agreeing to help.

Mr Medley said it was good to know that the new land was available and he would be happy to enter into discussions with SLAP once new money for building houses in Lerwick becomes available.

The purchase of the land has been in the pipeline for some time, but legal difficulties meant that the deal could not be concluded in 2009 as was initially expected.

SLAP chairman Jim Henry said: “Legal complications made this acquisition quite a slow process, but the milestone has now been achieved.

“SLAP is very excited about the prospect of new council houses being built.”

Mr Goddard added that SLAP was a commercial operation and would look to make a good return on their investment.

SLAP, which stands for Shetland Leasing and Property Developments Limited, is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Shetland Charitable Trust.

SLAP has around £17 million invested in assets throughout the isles, such as the SBS Base, Scatsta Airstrip, Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre.

Police struggle to find relatives

POLICE in Shetland have not named a Polish man whose body was found in a house in Lerwick last Thursday, as they face difficulties tracing next of kin.

A most mortem on the 41 year old was carried out earlier this week. It will take two weeks for the results of a blood test to come through to determine whether the death was drug related.

Detective sergeant Lindsay Tulloch said this morning (Wednesday) that officers were continuing with their enquiries.

The man has been identified as a Polish national which has caused the authorities some difficulty in tracing next of kin,” he said. 

A report into the death has been submitted to the procurator fiscal, in Lerwick.

Sita will look after the environment

SHETLAND Amenity Trust’s marketing officer Sita Hughson has been appointed the organisation’s new environmental improvement officer.

Ms Hughson replaces long serving project officer Mick Clifton who left the trust in March to work as a community development worker with Shetland Islands Council.

The amenity Trust said yesterday that Ms Hughson was the perfect candidate to continue their environmental work.

She has a masters in business administration and a background in science.

"I am really looking forward to getting back into a management and technical role as well as developing this important area of the trust's work.

I care about Shetland and its environment and welcome the opportunity to help safeguard its future,” she said.

She will take up her new post in late May and is therefore not involved in the running of this year’s annual community clean up, Da Voar Redd Up, which gets under way next weekend.

Shetland Amenity Trust said preparation work for the 23rd redd up was well under way with more than 3,000 volunteers having already pledged their support for the event.

Four environmental improvement teams will be deployed during the weekend to collect and dispose of the huge amount of bruck gathered by volunteers from across the isles.

A spokeswoman for the trust said that it still was not too late to take part in the community initiative.

Groups and individuals not already registered should do so by either calling the trust on 01595 69 4688 or e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible.

For those groups already registered, packs containing gloves, bags, safety vests, etc. are awaiting collection from Shetland Amenity Trust's offices, at Garthspool.

Land in Shetland’ at Glasgow exhibition

Shetland is to market its strategic location in the middle of rich fishing grounds when it brings its ‘Land in Shetland’ campaign to the Fishing 2010 exhibition in the Glasgow SECC between 20 and 22 May.

Kevin Moreland, marketing officer with Shetland Islands Council, said: "With the tight restrictions on days-at-sea and spiralling fuel costs, we feel it makes economic sense to land in Shetland rather than steam to mainland ports.”

Seven companies and organisations are exhibiting under the 'Shetland' banner and will be highlighting their services, making it a logical option for fishing vessels looking for a quick turnaround.

Mr Moreland added: "We have an excellent infrastructure here to support fishing vessels and the prices achieved at the fish markets in Lerwick and Scalloway are comparable, or sometimes even higher, than those on the mainland.

"We have been running our 'Land in Shetland' campaign for several years now and Fishing 2010 presents an excellent opportunity to remind skippers of the advantages of landing in Shetland."

QD Events, the new organisers of Fishing 2010, says that uptake for the show has been excellent with over 90 per cent of stand space now taken up.

Highlights include the discussion sessions and seminars in a theatre sponsored by the Seafish Industry Authority.

The events lined up will include an address from Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead, and an update on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy by a leading EC fisheries official.

Marketing will be another key theme and will include a seminar on what multiple retail buyers are looking for and the challenges they face when buying fish.

Another seminar will look at the most efficient ways of getting the fish catch to the plates of consumers.

Fran McIntyre, managing director of QD Events, said: "We have been really encouraged by the level of interest in Fishing 2010 and despite these difficult economic times we are detecting an underlying optimism in the industry, which can only bode well for the future."

Police check up on truck drivers

THREE truck drivers in Shetland were issued with “instant prohibition notices” during a day long safety campaign in which 15 heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) were checked at the Brig o’ Fitch, yesterday (Monday).

Seven more drivers were given penalties, warnings and advice, including:

  • Two fixed penalties due to the condition of the vehicles they were driving;
  • One driver was warned due to an insecure load;
  • Two HGV drivers were issued with delayed prohibition on the use of their vehicles;
  • Two drivers were given advisory notes.

The checks were carried out by police officers and staff from the Vehicle & Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

A police spokesman said: “Police would like to remind all HGV drivers and operators of their roles and responsibilities in maintaining their vehicles and the importance of carrying out basic checks prior to commencing any journey.

“This is an ongoing initiative between Northern Constabulary and VOSA who are committed in keeping the roads of Shetland safe.”

In brief – 13 April 2010

Youth award for Martin

Shetland Islands Council youth support worker Martin Summers has received a special commendation for support worker of the year.

Mr Summers received his award from Louise MacDonald, the chief executive of YoungScot.

He was praised for his commitment including holding elections for the Scottish Youth Parliament and accompanying members of the youth parliament to sittings throughout Scotland.

 

DITT supports Tall Ships

LOCAL construction firm D.I.T.T. has put forward £6,000 in cash in sponsorship of next year’s Tall Ships Races, in Shetland.

The sponsorship deal makes the firm the first Host Port Associate and is seen as a vital step for the organisers to reach their target of £400,000 of sponsorships.

D.I.T.T. director Peter Tait said: “We are delighted to be involved in this huge community event and to assist the organising company to reach their sponsorship targets to be able to deliver a fantastic event for the participants and visitors.”

Tall Ships Races project manager Fiona Dally said the organisers had managed to raise £154,000 so far.

Information on sponsorship opportunities is available on the sponsors’ section at www.tallshipsraceslerwick.com

Goalpost moved on nuclear waste

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has voiced his support for the council’s concern on the government’s policies regarding the storage of high activity radioactive waste.

Back in March the council’s infrastructure committee agreed on a strongly worded response to the government’s consultation process.

At the time, heritage officer Austin Taylor had told councillors that the Scottish government’s position on radioactive waste storage appeared to be “softening” as proposals for storing radioactive waste under the seabed were being considered.

The meeting was unanimous in voicing its concern that the Scottish government was moving towards an “out of sight – out of mind” approach on nuclear waste.

It has now emerged that the disagreement centres on the question of how to define “near surface facilities” for nuclear waste.

Mr Scott said last night (Monday) that a senior government official had told the Dounreay Stakeholder Group that the disposal facilities could be as deep as 100 metres, or even more.

He said that that was very different from the “tens of metres” mentioned in the consultation document and has now called on environment minister Richard Lochhead to extend the consultation period so that the issue could be clarified.

“Such waste cannot, within sensible timescales, be disposed of; it has to be stored in as safe a way as possible.

“That means that it has to be securely stored but in such a way that it can be closely monitored and retrieved if necessary.

“The legacy of radioactive waste we are handing to future generations is an onerous legacy, and we need to minimise the burden we are passing on by handling it responsibly.

“We cannot just stick it deep in the ground and hope that it can be forgotten about.”

He added: “If the definition of ‘near surface’ is being stretched to include depths well below 50 metres, depths at which the ability to monitor and retrieve the waste would be compromised, then Liberal Democrats would be concerned.

“I am sure that others would share that concern. So, if the goal posts have been moved in the way suggested, then the consultation must be extended.”

Local ownership is the key

COMMUNITY involvement and local ownership are the keys to the success of any significant renewable energy project.

This is the view of Søren Hermansen, the Director of the Samsø Energy Academy, who will be in the isles later this month to give a presentation to the Shetland Sustainability Conference.

Mr Hermansen is credited with being the driving force behind turning the small Danish island of Samsø into a 100 % renewable energy community.

Today, the various renewable energy projects, including wind turbines and district heating schemes burning wood pellets and straw, provide an important source of jobs and income for the 4,100 islanders. The island also achieved a 10 per cent reduction in energy consumption.

Samsø is seen as an important showcase for sustainable development and attracts thousands of tourists every year who are keen to learn about the island’s green experience.

In 1997, Samsø won a Danish government competition to demonstrate how a local area could transfer to self-sufficiency in renewable energy within 10 years.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Shetland, Mr Hermansen said embarking on the renewables route had not been easy and had taken years of persuasion and community meetings.

“Local people didn’t think much of it at the beginning; they thought it was just another fantasy project from somebody coming from the outside.

“But I had the advantage of being a local resident; I was born and brought up on Samsø.

“Gradually, local people could see the advantages of what we were trying to do; the plumber in converting the central heating systems, the farmer in producing straw and wood pellets.

“Today, there is something in it for almost everybody on the islands, and I think that was the driving force behind it. People adopted the project, not in one big step but gradually.

“We also kept it simple in the planning of the projects and took one step at a time so that local people could adopt and learn from it,” he said.

He said when in Shetland during the last week of April he wants to talk about what local ownership means and how to overcome barriers that prevent people from taking that ownership.

Developing a master plan that incorporates the community’s wishes and desires would be a good start to engage fully with islanders, Mr Hermansen said.

Responding to proposals to build a 540 megawatt windfarm in Shetland, he said it was vital for a project that size to be adopted by the community as that would prevent much of the negativity and polarisation that is associated with very large projects.

“Islanders who don’t have an alternative to the multi-megawatt proposal can easily be portrayed as being negative and against development.

“This is a very dangerous situation because everybody is negative about it. It also prevents any further steps towards a solution. I disagree with authorities who try to push through things over the heads of the people.”

And he added: “It is much easier to accept the impact of a wind turbine if you actually own it. If a village is a co-owner or a shareholder in a wind turbine, then it looks much nicer.”

Talking about Samsø, Mr Hermansen said the community was still far away from solving all the energy problems of modern life despite being 100 per cent self-sufficient.

Because the project is based on tried and tested technology, the island’s transport sector still relies heavily on burning oil.

Although the island produces more renewable energy than it needs, and thereby is able to offset CO2 emissions from cars and ferries, the desire is to transform the transport sector itself to renewable energy.

Mr Hermansen said the island will be ready to convert to electric cars once they become available.

“This is a very big task. We always said we want to convert the island on proven technology.

“The windfarm make a profit every year which will enable us to eventually invest into a future transport solution once it becomes available.

“At night the market price for electricity is low and that is when we will charge the cars. We are going to use intelligent systems,” he said.

Mr Hermansen will speak at the Shetland Sustainability Conference on 28 April in the NAFC Marine Centre. More information about the Samsø project can be found here: www.energiakademiet.dk

Lerwick boy brings Ross County luck

WHEN Ross County stunned the football world on Saturday beating Celtic 2-0 to reach the Scottish cup final, a young Shetland boy could proudly claim that he played a big part in that unexpected result.

Eight year old Calvin Hunter, from Quoys, in Lerwick, was the mascot of Ross County on that day.

Returning home on Sunday from an exhilarating weekend at Hampden, Calvin said he had enjoyed every single minute of the experience.

“As a mascot you take the players to the pitch and shake their hands before the game. It was good and exciting,” he said.

Calvin was chosen to be the mascot thanks to his grandfather Mike Hunter, who is the team’s doctor.

Dr Hunter, who now lives in Inverness, was the GP in the south mainland between 1977 and 2006.

Calvin’s granny Frances Hunter said last night: “He also got to toss the coin to decide which team was to kick the ball first. It will take him a long time to come back down to earth.”

She added that Calvin was naturally a fan of Ross County, but also supported Celtic.

In brief – 10 April 2010

Liquidator appointed

KPMG have been appointed liquidators for troubled Lerwick building firm JHB.

The move could lead to the loss of thousands of pounds owed to local firms by the company.

JHB had ceased trading back in February when the majority of its workforce was made redundant after a major housing scheme in Scalloway was delayed by planners.

At the time, the company’s managing director John Halcrow had claimed the council had brought down JHB and subsequently filed a complaint of maladministration against the local authority.

 

Charitable grants

A NUMBER of community groups and musicians have received grants worth £7,577 from the Shetland Charitable Trust during March.

They are theLerwick Sea Scout Group (£1,500), Hjaltland Explorer Scout Group (£1,500), Girlguiding Shetland – Lerwick district (£3276), Fraser Mouat (£574), Joy Duncan (£153) and Thomas Cockayne (£574).

A spokeswoman for the trust said that the overall costs of the six projects were £15,492 with almost £8,000 being secured from other sources.

 

Counselling for survivors of sexual abuse

A SELF HELP group of survivors of sexual abuse are to hold a day of counselling training in May and are inviting anybody with an interest to contact them.

Sexual Abuse Survivors have recently secured funding to invite specialists from 'Deep Release' to the isles.

Founded in 1994, Deep Release describe themselves as offering some of the most  innovative and exciting counselling training courses currently available in the UK.

A spokeswoman of Sexual Abuse Survivors said: “The trainers will tailor a workshop to meet the needs of folk in Shetland, so if you have identified any areas which you would specifically like us to help with please don’t hesitate to let us know.”

The training is free of charge, and will be on Saturday 22 May, in Lerwick. Anyone wishing to attend should call 07747 097 160 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Call to ban Cllr Robinson and Smith

THE PARTNER of former Shetland Islands Council chief executive, Dave Clark, has expressed her concern regarding the appointment of councillors Gary Robinson and Cecil Smith to the selection committee that has been tasked to find a replacement for Mr Clark.

In a letter to the council, Judith Miller said it was “wholly inappropriate” that Mr Robinson had been given such responsibilities while under investigation by the Standards Commission for an alleged breach of the code of conduct for councillors.

Mr Robinson is being investigated for remarks he made at the end of last year in relation to details of a loan repayment agreement between Shetland Islands Council and Judane (Shetland) Ltd, a company of which Ms Miller is a director.

Shetland News understands that Ms Miller was one of three local people who reported Mr Robinson to the Standards Commission.

“Should the complaint against Cllr Robinson be upheld, the whole credibility of any appointment (of a new chief executive) to which he was party would be jeopardised,” she wrote in her letter.

She added that she wanted councillor Cecil Smith “formally investigated” by the council after he had allegedly abused his position as chairman of the council’s licensing committee.

According to her, Mr Smith had contacted the owner of a Lerwick pub to probe an alleged rumour of Ms Miller having been banned from that pub.

She wrote: “Such behaviour by Cllr Smith appears at a minimum to be wholly inappropriate, and may be viewed as a gross abuse of position. I ask that this be formally investigated and the appropriate action being taken.

“It is my hope that this can be dealt with by SIC both promptly and discreetly in order to avoid the necessity of the matter being raised with the Ethical Standards Commission.”

The council’s chief legal officer Jan Riise said he could “not respond” to the question if and how the local authority would act on Ms Miller’s complaint. He said it would not be appropriate to discuss a complaint from a member of the public.

Last night, Mr Robinson said the content of the letter had never been discussed at the first meeting of the selection panel, on Thursday.

He declined to comment on the letter itself as it was “confidential correspondence”.

But he added: “In terms of my appointment to the selection committee; I have been elected unanimously by the council and unless the council tells me otherwise this is something I will see through.”

Mr Smith could not be contacted yesterday (Friday).

Sudden death in Lerwick

ENQUIRIES were ongoing last night (Friday) after the body of a man had been found within a house at the Hoofields area of Lerwick, on Thursday afternoon.

Police declined to give any further details while officers were still looking into the circumstances of the sudden death.

The next of kin are being informed.

First converter station approved

A PLANNING decision on a massive converter station necessary to export electricity from the proposed Viking Energy windfarm via 200 miles subsea cable to the Scottish mainland will not be made before June, it emerged last night (Thursday).

On Wednesday the converter station at the other end of the cable at Blackhillock, near Keith, was approved by councillors in Moray.

Yesterday, the chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s planning board, Frank Robertson, said officials were still waiting for additional information from applicant Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission Limited (SHETL).

He said the board had to consider a planning application for the site at Upper Kergord, but also a works licence application for the cable coming ashore in Weisdale Voe.

Mr Robertson said the applications would be considered at the planning board meeting on 2 June at the earliest.

A number of organisations and individuals have objected to the converter station to be built in the valley.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Viking Energy welcomed Moray Council’s decision as a “positive move” and added that the Blackhillock converter station was part of the overall infrastructure for the proposed 540 megawatt wind farm project.

The chairman of Moray Council’ planning committee Stewart Cree is reported as saying that the construction of the converter station would bring welcome economic benefit to the town of Keith.

In brief – 9 April 2010

Support for new Tingwall museum

A PUBLIC meeting to support proposals for a new agricultural museum to be built in Tingwall has come out strongly in support of the £1.3 million project

Around 70 people turned out at a meeting in the Tingwall Hall, on Wednesday evening to discuss the project designed by local architect firm Redman + Sutherland.

A spokeswoman said: “Everyone seemed impressed with the design of the building, and a show of hands said that nobody was opposed to the museum going ahead.

“Overall it was a very successful meeting that has encouraged us to really push the project on now.”

Seven local people volunteered to join the eight already on the project’s steering group. The appointment of office bearers to a new committee is planned for the near future.

 

Grants to local groups

Shetland Islands Council’s community services yesterday gave details of 30 grant awards to sport and community clubs.

A total of £51,622 pounds have been committed mainly to help with annual running costs but also in support of special projects, particularly sending young sports people to the Scottish mainland on competitions.

A council spokesman said that the overall cost for the 30 projects were £163,294 with match funding of more than £111,000 being found from other sources.

Details of the awards can be found here.

 

Shetland swimmers do well

Shetland has a new Scottish champion in 13 year old Donnie Price from the South Mainland Swimming Club after he won the 1,500 meters in his age group at the Scottish National Age Group Championships, currently being held at the Tollcross Leisure Centre, in Glasgow.

Other Shetland swimmers also got off to a fantastic start.

Sarah Williamson was the fastest qualifier in the 12 year olds 100m breaststroke final, while Andrea Strachan qualified 4th fastest for the 16-18 year old girls 100m breaststroke. Megan Petursdottir qualified for the 13 year old girls 100m breaststroke.

Meanwhile, Callum Macgregor qualified 4th fastest in the 100m Freestyle final in the 16-18 year olds age group, while Felix Gifford and Craig Nicolson will be in the final for the 15 year old boys. Felix will also be competing in the 200m fly final.

Conference to talk sustainability

UP TO 50 delegates from island communities are heading for Shetland later this month to learn from each other on how to create and implement sustainable development.

The Shetland Sustainable Conference, to be held on 28 April in the NAFC Marine Centre, is part of a three day visit by the partners of the ‘Cradle to Cradle Islands’ project, an initiative funded by the European Union.

The visitors will spend the first two days in meetings at the Saxa Vord resort, on the island of Unst, before relocating to Scalloway for the conference.

Speakers will include project manager Anne de Fries, from the Dutch province of Fryslan, as well as the Danish green guru Søren Hermansen, who has been instrumental in turning the Baltic island of Samsø into a 100 per cent self-sufficient island.

Speakers from Shetland will include marine development officer Mark Weymss, Daniel Aklil from the Pure Energy Centre (PEC) as well as Colin Dickie, the Northmavine powerdown officer.

Organiser Elizabeth Johnson of PEC said last night (Thursday) that they wanted to “add value” to the conference by inviting local people who are interested in sustainability.

She said: “The conference provides people from Shetland with an opportunity, not only to talk about projects currently under way in Shetland, but also to hear about and gain knowledge from projects happening overseas.

“Hopefully the outcome of the conference is to learn from each other and to empower communities in Shetland to increase the uptake in sustainable technologies.”

The three year project started in early 2009 and has 22 partners reaching from the Lofoten Islands in the north to a number of island regions in the southern North Sea and the Baltic.

More information on project can be found at: www.c2cislands.org

Police chiefs dismiss audit comments

SENIOR police officers yesterday (Wednesday) challenged comments in an audit report that said the force in Shetland was not making enough use of specialised investigation teams from the Scottish mainland to combat the isles’ massive drug abuse problem.

The best value audit and inspection report into the Constabulary and Northern Joint Police Board, published by Audit Scotland on Wednesday, said it had “found no evidence” that the drug problem was tackled by drawing in specialised staff.

Shetland area officer David Bushell said he had a different view and was “quite clear” that his officers’ recent success in fighting drug crime was due to the co-operation with teams from across Northern Constabulary as well as other police forces.

His comments were echoed by chief constable Ian Latimer who said that Northern Constabulary regularly deployed resources throughout the force and had been “very successful in interrupting drug related activity across our force area”.

Chief inspector Bushell said: “I have a different view on this and I am quite clear about that as is the chief constable.

“We have had some very successful operations during the six to seven months I have been in Shetland.

“Yes, there is a drugs issue in Shetland. We make regular use of teams from throughout the force including headquarters. We also exchange information and work successfully with other forces.

“We also work closely with other agencies and the public here in Shetland, and the success we had is the result of all that.”

The Audit Scotland report said that moving specialised teams within policing areas was routinely done in other police forces to address “policing challenges”.

Movement of officers based on identified operational need is relatively common in mainland areas yet during the inspection we found movement of officers to the island areas of the force occurred less frequently.

“Despite a widespread recognition that drug abuse presents a major problem in Shetland, we found no evidence of it being addressed through the division-wide tasking process, for example by deployment of the divisional proactive team to the islands,” auditors said.

In the report Northern Constabulary was commended for its high crime detection rate in an area where the crime rate is traditionally lower than in other Scottish police forces.

The best value audit also highlighted the force’s system of sound financial control and its record of achieving efficiency savings, including the recent restructuring which saved £1.6 million and resulted in an increase of the number of police officers from 700 to 800.

Audit Scotland suggested some areas for future improvement, such as performance monitoring and information sharing.

Chief Constable Ian Latimer said the audit report was “very positive” and showed that the force was providing best value.

“Forward planning and restructuring has resulted in a significant shift in resources into front-line policing, with the capacity to deploy specialist resources across area commands on demand and concentrate police resources at core times.

“Our ability to move substantial resources to more remote areas was demonstrated in 2009, when we speedily deployed a full murder investigation team to the remote island of Sanday where they successfully detected and reported this serious crime.”

The full report can be found on Audit Scotland’s website at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk

In brief – 8 April 2010

Carmichael welcomes tax back-down

News that the government has dropped its controversial tax hike on furnished holiday lettings has been welcomed by northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

The LibDem MP said: “This is a welcome reprieve for local businesses in a vitally important sector of our local economy but it is not yet a final victory. It is clear that if Labour is re-elected then they will try to bring these changes back.”

“Changing the tax rules for owners of self catering accommodation businesses could do significant damage to our local economy.

“This reprieve is good news for the tourism industry in the Northern Isles and a great campaign success for all of those who opposed the Government’s plans since their announcement in 2009.”

 

New helpline for cat welfare group

THE Shetland Branch of Cats Protection has launched a new telephone helpline.

Anyone in Shetland who wishes to give a cat a home, requires the branch’s help with a cat welfare issue, has lost or found a cat, would like a neutering voucher or would simply like to volunteer to help the branch can now call 01595 840 588.

A spokesperson said: “We realise that it’s always much better to connect with a human voice on the other end of the line, but since the branch is run entirely by volunteers we unfortunately do not have the resources for that.”

Last year, the branch successfully re-homed 79 cats, reunited ten lost cats with their owners and neutered 134 cats during its free neutering campaign.

To finance the branch’s work, a series of fund-raising activities are planned for this year, commencing on Saturday with the Spring Fair at the Town Hall from 2pm until 4pm.

 

North Boats updated

NorthLink is to host a reception on board the Hrossey in Lerwick harbour next Monday to celebrate the publication of “Passage to the Northern Isles: Ferry Services to Orkney and Shetland 1790 – 2010” by the Isle of Man specialist publishing house Ferry Publications.

The new 96-page book is a revised and updated version of The North Boats by the late Alastair McRobb.

This new edition, compiled by Miles Cowsill and Colin Smith, takes as its starting point the definitive McRobb edition but is brought completely up to date with many of the sections revised and with the addition of many previously unpublished photographs.

 Mr Cowsill said: “We hope to give the reader an insight into ferry travel from bygone days and bring them right up to modern times through the P&O Scottish Ferries era and on to the service as it exists today with NorthLink.”



Search on for new chief executive

RECOMMENDATIONS for a new chief executive for Shetland Islands Council could be made as early as May this year.

A seven strong panel appointed by the council last month met for the first time yesterday (Thursday).

The panel’s remit is to liaise with local authority umbrella group CoSLA in hand picking an interim chief executive prepared to be in post until at least November 2012, six months after the next local authority elections.

Earlier this year, the SIC parted company with chief executive of nine months, Dave Clark, following a series of high profile fall-outs between Mr Clark and elected members.

Mr Clark is said to have received a £250,000 tax free pay-off in a deal that could have cost the local authority near to half a million pounds.

Yesterday, the selection panel conferred via videoconference with CoSLA chief executive Rory Mair to discuss the next steps in the process of finding a new head of the paid service.

Last moth, a meeting of the full council agreed to appoint an interim chief executive to help steady the ship after months of upheaval.

Convenor Sandy Cluness said: "It is good to see this moving ahead promptly, we are optimistic that we will identify a number of high quality candidates for this important role.”

He added that it was hoped to make a recommendation to a meeting of the full council in early May.

The members of the selection panel are: Convener Sandy Cluness plus Robert Henderson, Florence Grains, Cecil Smith, Bill Manson, Allan Wishart and Gary Robinson.

Chance of a lifetime for young sailors

FOURTEEN enthusiastic young people will now be able to take part in this year’s Tall Ships Races on board the Swan or the Norwegian sailing ship Christian Radich thanks to a successful fundraising campaign that has secured more than £11,000.

Sail Training Shetland yesterday (Wednesday) announced that the application process for trainee places will start next week after a final sponsorship from the People’s Postcode Lottery had been secured.

The trust’s Lisa Imlach said: “We are delighted to support Sail Training Shetland with delivering this exciting scheme for young people.

“It gives them a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in experiencing Tall Ships whilst gaining invaluable life skills, and meeting people from different backgrounds from around the world.”

Other sponsors are Lerwick Building Centre, DH Marine, Ocean Kinetics and Lerwick Port Authority. Associate sponsors and supporters are Lerwick Community Council, the Merchant Navy Association of Shetland and Ian Manson (Bletty) Memorial Trust.  

Sail Training Shetland chairman Peter Malcolmson said he was “thrilled” that businesses and organisations have been able to support the charity.

“We hope to encourage as many young people to apply for these places and to build on the success of our previous trainees, who loved the experience onboard Swan in the Small Ships Races in 2009.

“We thank all our present sponsors and also look forward to offering a wide range of trainee opportunities next year, when we host The Tall Ships Races 2011.”

Trainee places for those between 15 and 25 are available on the 2010 Tall Ships Races leg between Kristiansand, in Norway, and Hartlepool, in England, at the beginning of August.

Application forms will be available on www.sailtrainingshetland.com as of 16 April.

Coastguards lose radio cover

SHETLAND Coastguard had to send out auxiliary teams to help maintain VHF radio cover after electrical faults on Monday and Tuesday knocked out communication lines to remote radio stations.

VHF aerials at Saxa Vord, Collafirth, Scousburgh and Fair Isle are being used by Shetland Coastguard to better communicate with shipping in the area.

The service was unavailable between 4.46pm and 8.33pm on Monday, and again between 11.30am and 1.30pm on Tuesday.

A spokesman for British Telecom said last night (Tuesday) that two separate faults, both on the Scottish mainland, had caused the temporary losses of communication.

Monday’s fault was due to problems with a power unit at Helmsdale radio station, while Tuesday’s failure could be traced back to a fault at Thrumster radio station, the spokesman said.

A coastguard spokeswoman said that it was vital for their service that the lines were fixed as quickly as was possible.

“We get some of our coastguard teams to go to the various locations to do a watch with hand held radios for us. If they pick up anything they then can alert us via phone. It is not ideal, but better than nothing,” she said.

Election declared for 6 May

CANVASSING for the Orkney and Shetland seat is to begin in earnest after Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the long awaited general election for the 6 May.

So far just five candidates have declared their intention to become the next MP for the northern isles. They are Alistair Carmichael for the LibDems, Mark Cooper for Labour, John Mowat for the SNP and Frank Nairn for the Conservatives, and Robert Smith for UKIP.

Orkney and Shetland is seen as one of the safest LibDem constituencies in the country held by the party for the last 60 years.

Five years ago, sitting MP Alistair Carmichael polled 51.5 per cent and was re-elected with a majority of 6,627 votes. Second was Labour’s Richard Meade with 14.2 per cent, third Frank Nairn with 13.3 per cent and fourth John Mowat with 10.3 per cent.

Labour’s Mark Cooper was the first yesterday (Tuesday) to come out with an election statement.

Making renewable energy in general, and the proposed Viking Energy wind farm in particular, a topic for the forthcoming campaign, Mr Cooper spoke in favour of the 540 megawatt project.


“I thought long and hard about the project and have come to the decision that this project will help to secure Shetland’s long term future.

“The Viking wind project has the potential to provide employment, a future for young people and the sustainability of key services for the whole community,” he said.

The 26 year old added that he was delighted to be able to take the case for Labour to people’s doorsteps after months of speculation as to when the election was to be held.

“I'm full of energy for this; enthusiastic about the Labour policies I will be presenting and ready to go in every sense.

“I will be standing confidently both on the track record of Labour policy and values embodied in our progressive manifesto and look forward to meeting folk and discussing these issues with them,” he said.

Second to respond to the Shetland News’ request for an initial election statement was now retired teacher John Mowat who has fought the SNP campaign for the Orkney and Shetland seat twice before.

He said he will split his time equally between canvassing in Orkney and Shetland, adding that he was looking forward to finally get going with the campaign.

He said: “Gordon Brown’s boom and bust handling of the British economy will be the main issue, with knock-on effects as the huge budget deficit is tackled.

“The very high fuel prices are a huge problem for business, transport and tourism industries and to individual motorists.

“Farming, crafting and fishing have particular local importance. Affordable housing, jobs, and renewable energy are other major local issues.”

South Ronaldsay fisherman Robert Smith said last night (Tuesday) that he had just received the go-ahead from UKIP to fight the Orkney and Shetland seat.

He said it was about time that the election had finally been called, and added: “It's indicative of Browns character, to hang on till the last minute.”

The major issues for the northern isles, he said, were energy, transport, government and EU interference, as well as the economy and "green" issues.

“I’m going to give the campaign as much time as I can but it'll have to be on top of the usual workload.

“I'll be setting up a Facebook page so anyone can contact me with suggestions etc. I hope to make at least one trip to Shetland and I'll likely be wittering on the radio and in the press.

“As for the outcome...Who knows, but the Liberal policies don't resemble my perception of what the people of Orkney and Shetland want. I'll be highlighting that. But I'm in it to win it,” he said.

Alistair Carmichael for the LibDems said the election was long overdue and could have called a year ago.

“Instead parliament has limped on wounded for twelve months while Gordon Brown has put the interests of his own party ahead of the best interests of the nation.”

He added that he would not be complacent and certainly did not regard Orkney and Shetland as a “LibDem stronghold”.

“I shall be fighting for ever vote in every community and taking nothing for granted,” he said.

As main issues to be debated during the month long campaign he identified jobs and the economy.

“Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat shadow Chancellor, has warned for years about the danger of having an economy based on borrowing and consumer spending.

“As part of rebuilding a manufacturing base for our economy the interests of the farming, fishing and aquaculture industries must be understood and protected.

“The ongoing unfairness of the extra cost paid by local people and businesses for petrol and diesel will, I believe, continue to be an issue of concern for most local people,” he said.

Conservative Frank Nairn is throwing his hat into the ring for the second time in the Orkney and Shetland contest. He lives in Glen Strathfarrar, near Inverness, where he farms sheep and deer.

He said the UK could not afford another five years of Gordon Brown and urged people to use their right to have their say, and to vote for change.

“David Cameron will give this country a fresh start with new energy and ideas and a responsible approach to economic management.

“He will not lose a moment in his quest to rebuild the trust of the people after the record of recent years.  This is an issue of utmost importance to me; I believe the time is right for political integrity to re-establish itself and become the norm once again.

“Politicians must be both honest with others and with themselves. They must ask themselves at all times - am I being hypocritical, insincere or evasive?  If yes, then stop and start again!  No more double standards please,” Mr Nairn said.

Fishermen unveil election wish list

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation has unveiled its mini-manifesto for the forthcoming General Election, highlighting the main measures it would like the next government to support.

Bertie Armstrong, the federation’s chief executive said:  "Commercial fishing may not be
the first policy priority in the heads of the party leaders, but it's certainly first in the minds of those voters who operate the industry in the coastal communities of Scotland.

"Scotland holds the bulk of the UK fishing industry and it plays a most important role in the economy of the coastal communities, some of which are economically fragile.

“We have a wonderful renewable food source, which is harvested by an industry hungry to demonstrate its commitment to a sustainable future. We call on the current and aspiring Westminster representatives of Scotland to give us their support."

The measures the SFF would like the main political parties to support are:

Recognise that sustainable commercial fishing has a future and act accordingly.  Food security and the plain common sense of local primary food production spring immediately to mind.  The industry will innovate, modify itself and fight for that future, but politicians must always lend their full support.

Take a properly balanced view of the process of marine planning that is about to become a reality.  The two big sectors - super-economic oil & gas and the emergent renewable energy sector - must not blind politicians to the importance of fishing, which is a centuries old industry that is sustainable and upon which many coastal communities in Scotland depend.

Similarly, it is vital that during the planning and implementation process for Marine Protected Areas that the interests of fishing are not superseded by sometimes unrealistic pressure from the environmental lobby. Fishing and marine conservation can, and will go hand-in-hand if a commonsense approach is adopted.

To vigorously press the EC during the current reform process of the Common Fisheries Policy for a new decentralised policy, where there is devolved control that allows government and fishermen to work together to produce regional fisheries management policies that will work – where centralised micro-management has failed us.

To recognise the importance that Scottish caught seafood plays in national food policy and to highlight the health benefits it contributes to our national diet.

Mr Armstrong added: "In recent years Scottish fishermen, working with government and scientists, have been at the forefront of developing new initiatives to ensure the sustainable harvesting of the seafood found in the seas around our coasts.  In meeting the difficult challenges of recovery from a recession it is essential that politicians from all parties give the industry their support, recognise our commitment to sustainability and help ensure a bright economic future for fishing."