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Lochhead dismisses resignation call

FISHERIES secretary Richard Lochhead has bit back at campaigners calling for his resignation over remarks concerning Scotland’s track record on mackerel conservation.

On Tuesday welfare charity Animal Concern said Mr Lochhead’s claim at the weekend that Scottish fishermen had sustainable managed the mackerel fishery for the past 10 years was “misleading”.

Campaign consultant John Robins backed up his call by highlighting the 14 fishing skippers who have admitted more than 500 illegal landings of mackerel and herring worth more than £37 million at Lerwick’s Shetland catch processing factory between 2002 and 2005.

On Wednesday Mr Lochhead said Mr Robins’ statement was “ill informed” and his resignation call was “ridiculous”.

The fishing secretary pointed out that the government had investigated and prosecuted the illegal landings and forced the fishermen, most of whom were from Shetland, to repay the quota of fish they had taken illegally.

He said: “Scotland’s fishermen, working with environmental groups, have won plaudits throughout Europe for their conservation efforts.
 
“Scottish mackerel was the first large scale fishery to be accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council, recognising its sustainability. In fact the mackerel stock biomass has increased from 2.2 million tonnes in 2000 to over 2.9 million tonnes in 2010, thanks to careful management by Scotland, Norway and others in the EU.
 
“Unlike Iceland and the Faroes – who are pursuing a policy of overfishing on a huge scale – the Scottish government has dealt very seriously with overfishing, as illustrated by the firm action taken on over-quota mackerel landings between 2001 to 2006, where those concerned have had to pay back the quota. These are the cases currently subject to legal proceedings.
 
“Such incidents are not representative of the fishing practices of the Scottish fleet today. Our fishermen have made real progress on responsible fishing practices, to safeguard the future of both fish stocks and the industry.”

Scalloway parents urge folk to fight on

THE PARENTS council of a Shetland secondary school facing closure next year have asked local people to lobby the Scottish government to have the decision called in.

Shetland Islands Council voted this month to close Scalloway junior high school as part of its Blueprint of Education review, which aims to reduce the authority’s £42 million schools budget.

The decision shocked the community, which has fought hard to keep the 120 pupil secondary open and claimed the council’s consultation process was fatally flawed. The same meeting voted to keep open Scotland’s smallest secondary department, the three pupil school on Out Skerries.

Scalloway parent council said this week it had already won cross party support amongst highlands and islands MSPs.

SNP, Tory and Labour MSPs have joined Shetland Liberal Democrat member Tavish Scott in calling for the government to re-examine the decision under the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.

The parent council has submitted an “extensive document” highlighting flaws in the consultation and the failure of the council to demonstrate educational benefit; a similar submission is expected from the Scottish Rural Schools Network.

The government has until 18 January to decide whether to approve the council’s decision. Last week education secretary Mike Russell called in four proposed school closures in the western isles, saying Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar) had failed to consider alternatives to closure, the effect on the local community and transport arrangements.

Parent council spokeswoman Karen Eunson said she believed ministers’ decision had been influenced by the response they had received from the local community and urged local people to make their feelings known to the government.

“There is still a mood of disbelief, shock and frustration and a lot of folk have been in touch asking what they can do,” Ms Eunson said.

“Rather than sitting at home feeling frustrated and getting angry, we would encourage folk to do something, to put in their own request for a call in and to get in touch with the list MSPs.”

The deadline for submissions is 28 December and information about how to contact the government and highlands and islands MSPs is available at www.savescallowayschool.org.

SIC education spokesman Bill Manson said: “Our proposal has been submitted to Scottish ministers and I have every confidence that they will treat this dispassionately and consider it against the usual criteria.”

Next year the SIC will consult on proposals to close five primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe, Olnafirth and Sandness.

ends

Mind Your Head wins funding prize

A SHETLAND mental health charity has come out the winner of a competition for funding from the RBS Community Fund.

Mind Your Head beat two other highlands and islands charities shortlisted for the £3,000 prize following an online poll.

The energetic charity, which was only set up five years ago, will use the cash to assist with projects aimed largely at young people to help raise awareness and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Chairwoman Shona Manson said she was “absolutely delighted” to have won this round of funding and thanked supporters who were “so active in voting”.

“It is important for us to acknowledge the amazing support we receive from our community and this funding is just one more example,” Ms Manson said.

“We are looking forward to undertaking new work in 2011 which will be led be our recently appointed co-ordinators, Jenny Teale and Jacqui Clark.  They will be busy launching new project and development initiatives from January onwards.”

Pressure group demans Lochhead's head

PRESSURE group Animal Concern has called for the resignation of Scottish fishing secretary Richard Lochhead over comments he made about the current mackerel dispute with Faroe and Iceland.
In a press statement released at the weekend, Mr Lochhead claimed that the mackerel fishery had been “sustainably managed for the past 10 years by Scottish fishermen”.
Animal Concern campaign consultant John Robins said the statement was “misleading”, considering Mr Lochhead’s own department had led an investigation that has so far led to 14 fishing skippers admitting they made more than 500 landings of mackerel and herring, worth more than £37 million, at Lerwick’s Shetland Catch processing factory between 2002 and 2005.
Mr Robins said: “This is an extremely serious mistake by Richard Lochhead and it makes his position untenable.
“He has praised Scottish fishermen for protecting fish stocks at a time when many of them, including recognised industry leaders, were making fortunes by illegally landing vast tonnages of over-quota fish.

“If Lochhead did not know about the widely reported court cases brought earlier this year by his own officials then he should resign for being negligent. If he did know about the prosecutions yet still went ahead with this totally incorrect and misleading statement he should resign for being totally incompetent.
“Either way he must go and let someone more interested in protecting our marine environment take over. At the moment the relationship between the Scottish fishing industry and the Scottish government is very similar to that between Harry Corbett and Sooty – only less entertaining.”

Pressure group demands Lochhead’s head

PRESSURE group Animal Concern has called for the resignation of Scottish fishing secretary Richard Lochhead over comments he made about the current mackerel dispute with Faroe and Iceland.

In a press statement released at the weekend, Mr Lochhead claimed that the mackerel fishery had been “sustainably managed for the past 10 years by Scottish fishermen”.

Animal Concern campaign consultant John Robins said the statement was “misleading”, considering Mr Lochhead’s own department had led an investigation that has so far led to eight fishing skippers admitting they landed more than £22 million of mackerel and herring at Lerwick’s Shetland Catch processing factory between 2002 and 2005.

Mr Robins said: “This is an extremely serious mistake by Richard Lochhead and it makes his position untenable.

“He has praised Scottish fishermen for protecting fish stocks at a time when many of them, including recognised industry leaders, were making fortunes by illegally landing vast tonnages of over-quota fish.
 
“If Lochhead did not know about the widely reported court cases brought earlier this year by his own officials then he should resign for being negligent. If he did know about the prosecutions yet still went ahead with this totally incorrect and misleading statement he should resign for being totally incompetent.

“Either way he must go and let someone more interested in protecting our marine environment take over. At the moment the relationship between the Scottish fishing industry and the Scottish government is very similar to that between Harry Corbett and Sooty – only less entertaining."

 

Car crash, power cuts, travel delays

THE WINTER weather continued to cause problems for Shetland’s travellers and emergency services over the weekend.

Fire officers had to cut free a driver from a car after two vehicles collided on the main A970 by the Fladdabister junction near Cunningsburgh on Sunday lunchtime.

The man was taken by ambulance to Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital with shoulder injuries, while the other six occupants of the two cars were allowed to go home after being checked by paramedics.

Shetland coastguard’s Lerwick coordination centre was involved in helping to transfer a kidney patient to hospital in Kirkwall as blizzard conditions created transport problems throughout Orkney.

On Unst the Baltasound volunteer rescue team spent Saturday assisting BT engineers to access the aerial at Saxa Vord which had stopped transmitting in the bad weather.

While the engineers were fixing the fault, other coastguard volunteers based themselves at the local coastguard station where they monitored VHF radio for any distress calls.

A Shetland coastguard spokeswoman said: “It was very helpful to know the local teams and to be able to speak to them directly to sort these problems out.”

Rough to very rough sea condition caused by easterly winds up to Force 7 with snow showers were causing concern for shipping traffic.

The prevailing winds delayed the departure of the NorthLink ferry Hjaltland from Aberdeen harbour on Sunday evening by two hours, with the boat not expected to arrive at Hatson pier in Kirkwall until 1.30am, though she was due in Lerwick on schedule at 7.30am on Monday morning.

The weather also caused flight delays at Sumburgh airport with flights from Aberdeen and taking off an hour behind schedule and the noon flight from Edinburgh not leaving until 4.45pm. Kirkwall airport remained closed all weekend, but Glasgow and Inverness airports were open.

Around 4,000 premises experienced a power cut for two hours between 8pm and 10pm on Saturday evening after lightning struck an overhead power line between Scava and Hoya on the Gremista to Voe cable.

Further outages were experienced in Sandwick between 2.15 and 2.30pm by around 320 customers and about the same number were without power in Mossbank from 2.10pm to 5pm on Saturday due to lightning strikes.

A spokesman for Scottish & Southern Energy said they had engineers working from 4x4 vehicles working as quickly as possible to reconnect everyone and apologised for the lack of power.

Anger as Iceland sets mackerel quota

CALLS for sanctions against Iceland and Faroe have grown after Iceland this weekend announced it was unilaterally increasing its mackerel quota to 147,000 tonnes.
Scottish fishing secretary Richard Lochhead has joined the country’s fishing leaders in condemning the move, saying that it threatens the future of the fleet’s most valuable stock.
Last year Iceland caused anger by catching 130,000 tonnes of mackerel outside of any international agreements. Last month the country’s negotiators walked out of talks with the European Union and Norway and at the weekend announced it was going to catch even more mackerel in 2011.
Mr Lochhead said:  “This decision by Iceland to not only repeat their moves for 2010 in setting a massive unilateral quota but to increase it even further, represents a flagrant disregard for fisheries conservation and international opinion.
"It is now more important than ever that the international community stands together and takes strong action before it is too late for one of Europe's biggest and most valuable stocks.
“We have a commitment from the EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki to take strong action against Iceland – and the Faroes – and put in place the necessary tools to apply meaningful sanctions.
“The valuable mackerel fishery – worth £135m to the Scottish economy in 2009 – has been sustainably managed for the past 10 years by Scottish fishermen, as well as others across the EU and Norway.  Firm action is vital or the irresponsible practices of Iceland may lead to the demise of this fishery.”
Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association chief executive Ian Gatt added: “Considering that Iceland never even fished for the species prior to 2005, their decision to significantly increase even further an already grossly over-inflated quota is the height of irresponsibility and could do real damage to a stock that has been sustainably harvested and carefully looked after by the Scottish fleet
“They have taken this step so as to preserve their percentage share of the total international north-east Atlantic catch based on the quota they set for themselves this year, however, they never even caught the 130,000 tonnes they allocated in 2010 and this moves smacks of desperation and is sheer political posturing.
“Given the amount of mackerel that they took in their own waters in 2010, once has to question whether there will be enough fish left for them to get even close to their 2011 declared quota.
“It is now more essential than ever that the EU imposes trade sanctions on Iceland in response to their irresponsible behaviour."

Councils join to fight coastguard cuts

SHETLAND Islands Council and Western Isles Council have agreed to collaborate in a campaign to save their threatened coastguard coordination centres.

Last week the UK coalition government announced proposals for just one 24 hour coastguard station in Scotland based in Aberdeen, supported by a daylight hours only service from either Stornoway or Lerwick.

Both island authorities are seeking a joint meeting with shipping minister Mike Penning to make the case for both stations to be kept open.

They will also be arguing for the retention of the coastguard emergency tugs based around the western and northern isles, which are due to be axed in September following the October spending review.

Both island coastguard station employ around 20 people. Last week Maritime and Coastguard Agency chief executive Sir Alan Massey said the entire UK coastguard service could be coordinated by 48 staff on call at any one time.

The freeze goes on

FREEZING snow was continuing to make driving conditions very difficult throughout Shetland on Friday with some people unable to leave their house due to the state of side roads.
However most roads were passable as winds dropped during the day and with snow showers becoming more scattered.
All schools in the isles were closed along with Shetland College and the Anderson High School’s annual Bean Feast was cancelled for the second year running due to snow.
Sumburgh airport was closed until 11am but while most flights were delayed, only flights to Kirkwall were cancelled due to the Orkney airport remaining closed.
The weather is forecast to bring strong east and south easterly winds over the weekend with scattered snow showers.
A man and a woman injured in a two car accident on the Lang Kames north of Sandwater on Thursday evening were still in hospital in a stable condition on Friday night.
Six others who were injured in the smash, which happened during white out conditions, were allowed home with minor injuries.

Fish landings down but still healthy

WHITEFISH landings at Lerwick and Scalloway were slightly down in 2010 compared to the last two years, but still significantly higher than earlier in the decade.
 
Following the last whitefish landings of the year on Friday, Shetland Seafood Auction said that 248,450 boxed had been landed between January and 17 December.
 
Fish landings at the Shetland fish markets remain relatively high despite quota restrictions as many Scottish based trawlers have now switched to using Lerwick and Scalloway due to its vicinity to the fishing grounds and the good prices paid at the electronic auction.
 
Last year 262,291 boxes of whitefish were landed with 263,583 the year before.
 
Prices on average were believed to be slightly higher than 2009 although figures will not be available before early in the New Year.
 
Last year whitefish worth £26.2 million was landed in Shetland, with £17.3 million coming from local boats and £8.9 million landed by non-Shetland whitefish vessels.
 
Auction manager Martin Leyland said: “I think we had another very good year, particularly considering that the boats had to cope with reduced days at sea and a further cut in the amount of fish they can land.
 
“We rely on the Shetland fleet in the main, but we have always attracted mainly Scottish boats to land, and that is continuing.
 
“Unfortunately this year some of our boats, in order to continue fishing despite quota limitations, had to fish away from Shetland.
 
“If those boats had been able to catch and land in Shetland, the figures would probably have been the same as the last two years,” he said.
 
“The general feeling is that prices were higher this year,” he added.
 
The amount of fish landed in Shetland is now back to a similar level to 20 years ago. That is mainly due to the investment into an electronic auction in Lerwick and the generally high demand for seafood in recent years.

MCA chief denies costs are driving cuts

LESS than 50 coastguard officers would run the UK’s entire coastguard rescue coordination service from three 24 hour stations and five sub stations under radical new plans by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Speaking on BBC Radio Shetland on Friday, MCA chief executive Sir Alan Massey said controversial plans to cut the number of coastguard rescue centres by more than half were not driven by the need to cut costs.
He also promised that the Sumburgh based search and rescue helicopter base would not affected by any cuts, not would the volunteer coastguard rescue teams.
The MCA has been planning to modernise the coastguard service since before the new coalition government took office.
Shipping minister Mike Penning was due to announce the closure of Lerwick coastguard station on Tuesday, but the decision was changed at the last minute to allow a 14 week consultation to decide whether Lerwick or Stornoway should stay open.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has lodged a motion with the Scottish Parliament calling on both stations to remain. Stornoway is the government’s preferred option because it is regarded as cheaper to run.
Sir Alan said that the MCA had carried out “very detailed statistical analysis” of every incident the coastguard has dealt with historically.
“We have judged that around 48 coastguards on watch anywhere in the UK, because they are connected in some way with what’s going on at sea, can cope with the most number of incidents, whether they be major or minor or concurrent or not, that are ever likely to happen,” he said.
At the moment one coastguard station can be lying idle while another is extremely busy, and the workload cannot be shared because they are not interconnected. “You end up with far too many people with not enough to do,” he said.
“This is the time though to move forward with the technology we’ve got and with the capability that’s vested in our very good people and make a better fit for the way we actually coordinate search and rescue.
“What I am at pains to put across is that there will be no diminution of the quality of search and rescue and rescue services in particular around the Shetland Islands as a result of these proposals.”
He said he understood why there is such a high level of public concern and sympathised with those whose lives would be affected by any changes.
But he promised that the Sumburgh coastguard rescue helicopter base would not be affected by the changes, nor would the number of volunteer coastguard teams be reduced.
“This is about coordination, it’s not about rescue provision. The providers of rescue capability will not be touched or affected one iota by this. We are talking about coordination and your leisure seafarers, your fishermen, your commercial ship operators will still be able to talk to an experienced knowledgeable coastguard wherever he is.”
In response to concerns about the loss of local knowledge, he said: “We stand by the principle that the best local knowledge of all is vested in those who live and work right around the coast we are dealing with.
“In Shetland for instance you have two lifeboat stations and 23 volunteer coastguard rescue teams who really do know the coast and at the moment our coastguard coordinators in their watch station draw on that experience and expertise and knowledge and actually that’s what they will do in the future just from somewhere else.”
It was later pointed out that Shetland only has 17 volunteer rescue teams and one of those is currently not operating.
Sir Alan also denied the main purpose of the exercise was to cut costs. “Saving money is clearly a by product of any rationalisation that reduces the number of places and the number of people you need to do something, but actually no, we are at a stage now where with technology and the capability of our people there’s an unmissable opportunity to move forward and produce a much more effective and efficient and especially a much more resilient system.”

Coastguard campaign grows

THE CAMPAIGN to save Shetland coastguard station has grown during the 36 hours since the coalition government announced the most radical overhaul of maritime safety in 40 years.
A Facebook site Save Shetland Coastguard is well on its way to attracting 2,000 supporters in its first 24 hours, with calls growing for the online campaign to encompass all the coastguard stations in Scotland.
There is also an online petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petition/41468.html.
On Thursday shipping minister Mike Penning announced a 14 week consultation on the plans to reduce the number of coastguard stations from 18 to eight, with just three operating 24 hours a day in Aberdeen, Dover and Southampton/Portsmouth.
Shetland and Stornoway are being pitted against each other as the only other station in Scotland, but would only be open during daylight hours.
Stornoway is understood to have been the preferred option as the government believes it to be cheaper to run, though this is disputed within coastguard circles.
Questions have been raised over whether it is feasible to provide a coastguard service from Aberdeen covering the Shetland area due to the dependence on a microwave communications link.
Recent failures of broadband and telephone services caused by weather and civil engineering disruption on Orkney and the Scottish mainland have shown how vulnerable the communications system in Shetland is.
In last month coastguard officers had to communicate using radios and mobile phones from the top of hills when its IT systems failed following a lighting strike on a BT relay station in Sanday.
Northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott have pledged to campaign hard against the closure of the Shetland coastguard station.
Mr Scott, who tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday opposing the closure of both Shetland and Stornoway stations, said: “Scotland needs to keep coastguard stations in Lerwick and Stornoway. Together they cover very large and complex areas of sea and coastline, including key deepwater oil fields.
“Compared to the coast of England, the coastline in the highlands and islands is very complex and marine safety depends on those in charge having good local knowledge.
“The local knowledge of their area built up and held by the teams in both stations is invaluable and keeps safe those who travel and earn their living on and around our seas.  Officers in a single station could not possibly keep and develop the same degree of this vital local knowledge.”
European environmental organisation KIMO has accused the government of sacrificing safety to save money, saying the closures would slow down decision making and “increase the window for catastrophe”.

KIMO UK coordinator Tom Piper said: “We feel the cuts are purely being made on a cost basis and have nothing to do with modernisation. How else would you explain cutting more that 50 per cent of our emergency response coordination capabilities at a time when our seas are getting busier and busier?”
Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills has called for a special meeting of the Shetland Marine Safety Sub-Committee to discuss “the foolhardy proposal…as soon as possible” along with the plan to remove the coastguard’s emergency towing vessel from northern waters.

Blanket check

MORE than half of over 100 electric blankets examined by experts during a recent safety check in Shetland were condemned as unsafe.

The proportion of failures was almost double last year’s figure when a similar safety roadshow was run throughout the isles.

Anyone whose electric blanket was found faulty received a £10 voucher towards a replacement from the Electrical Safety Council. The roadshow was sponsored by the Shetland Community Safety Partnership

A checklist to allow anyone to carry out their own safety checks to their electric blankets is available at www.shetland.gov.uk/tradingstandards.

Shetland councillor Allison Duncan said every faulty blanket identified was potentially a life saved.

“Trading Standards advise that if an electric blanket is over 10 years old it should be replaced, and a new one might make an ideal Christmas present for someone – but make sure that the old blanket is properly disposed of so that it doesn’t get used again,” Mr Duncan said.


 

Public services mergers on the cards

A SINGLE public authority handling local government, health, water and sewage, transport, police, fire, economic development, natural heritage and environmental protection could be on the cards within the next five or six years.

Proposals for new ways of combining public services in Shetland and the other Scottish islands will be put up for public consultation early next year.

They follow a study carried out by the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, an independent think tank that has spent the past four years looking at how to streamline public services in Scotland.

The centre’s policy director Ross Martin has visited all three island authorities during the past few months to look for a uniquely island solution to the issues affecting the northern and western isles.

Mr Martin said that all three island groups had identified closer ties with other public agencies, such as Shetland’s Community Planning Board, but said it was important to create “a unified strategy” for all the isles.

Such moves, he claimed, would help the islands stave off any push for them to merge with each other or a mainland authority like Highland Council.

The overall strategy is an attempt by the Scottish government, with support from across the political spectrum, to reform public services and improve efficiency.

Mr Martin said: “We are looking across the whole public service family and seeing which bodies can work better as one unit.”

The public service “family” in Shetland could involve Shetland Islands Council, NHS Shetland, Scottish Water, ZetTrans, HIE Shetland, the local police and fire service, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Some will welcome the idea of services such as water and environmental protection returning to local democratic control.

“One of the drivers is to democratise the bodies that are not under democratic control and we will be looking at different ways to achieve that and putting them to the three island authorities to discuss,” Mr Martin said.

“There is a recognition that change is in the air and there is a very strong desire for change to be designed locally and not to be driven by Edinburgh.

“There is a likelihood of cross party support if each of the island areas can develop a model which has their community’s support.”

Orkney Islands Council convener Stephen Hagan is especially enthusiastic about having a single public authority for the islands and wants Orkney to become a pilot for the idea.

SIC convener Sandy Cluness also backed the concept, saying: “We have quite a good track record of working together in the public sector here in Shetland.

“I think that as organisations serving the Shetland community, we realise that with the ongoing economic situation facing us all we will have a much better chance of maintaining service levels and keeping jobs in the isles if we develop a strong, efficient single public service. So I very much support this initiative.”

Mr Martin said that any proposals would be likely to go out to public consultation and while some could be introduced fairly rapidly, major changes would probably be introduced with the 2016 election.

Weather warning

THE RETURN of winter is to bring major disruption to drivers over the next few days and ferry journeys are also likely to be affected by the strong winds.
The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for the Shetland area forecasting widespread icy roads and heavy snow starting on Wednesday night and running through Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Shetland Islands Council has set up a web page to highlight any disruption caused by the weather, including road conditions, ferry stoppages and school closures. The website can be accessed at www.shetland.gov.uk/adverseweather and will include links to NorthLink and Loganair’s websites.
Police are warning drivers to take extra care, drive slowly and show common sense, carrying warm clothing, a blanket, snow shovel, a fully charged mobile phone and making sure the petrol tank is at least half full before setting off.
NorthLink have advised that there could well be disruption over the next few days with Thursday’s sailings from Aberdeen and Lerwick are under review and Wednesday night’s boat is not calling at Kirkwall.
Police have advised people to pay attention to local media to keep up to date with the latest information about road conditions.
Regular updates will also be published on www.northern.police.uk, but people are asked not to call 999 unless it is a real emergency. Information will also be available on Shetland Islands Council’s website www.shetland.gov.uk.

In brief for 15 December 2010

ATM damage

ON Tuesday police reported that a cash machine outside the Santander bank on Lerwick’s Commercial Street was damaged over the previous weekend and have appealed for any witnesses to contact Lerwick police station.


Prescriptions warning

PEOPLE taking prescribed drugs are being advised to order any repeat prescriptions in time for the Christmas break.

NHS Scotland has launched its Be Ready for Winter campaign as threats of more freezing weather threatens deliveries.

The national health board is advising people to make sure their medicine cabinets are fully stocked and that repeat prescriptions are ordered no later than 20 December.

Doctors’ surgeries will stay open until Christmas Eve, close for four days until 29 December and close again on New Years Day, reopening on 5 January.


Abuse helpline

A NEW telephone counselling service for male survivors of childhood sexual abuse has been launched in Scotland.

The Trauma Counselling Line Scotland is a free and fully confidential service staffed by qualified, experienced counsellors.

The service’s leader Eileen Hone said: “It’s a counselling service available over the phone, it’s free and men can access it anywhere in Scotland.  This has not been available before, there’s nothing else filling this need.”

The helpline is open from 5pm to 7pm Monday to Wednesday and 11am to 2pm on Thursday and Friday. The number to call is 08088 020406. Messages can be left and will be returned.

Convener cries out over coastgaurd cutes

SHETLAND Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness has expressed his anger about reports that the coastguard station in Lerwick is one of three in Scotland being considered for closure by the UK government.

Mr Cluness said: “This station is absolutely vital for the protection of the hundreds of fishermen and other seafarers who regularly travel the waters around the Shetland Islands, often in the most dangerous conditions and at all times of the year.

“The station and its twenty staff have co-ordinated many important rescues of seamen and such experience and knowledge could never be replicated from the mainland.  That the coalition government should even consider such a proposal, together with the removal of the emergency tug, is totally beyond belief.

“It simply demonstrates yet another example of this government's failure to recognise the unique situation of these islands at an important crossroads of the North Atlantic.
 
“We are now entering an important phase in the development of the oil and gas fields west of Shetland which are so important to the UK's economy.  These are being undertaken in some of the most difficult circumstances ever experienced in this industry.  The government itself expects to gain substantially from its share of the revenues so must in return provide the essential protection for those who are undertaking this task.

“The shipping minister has of course accepted my invitation to visit the islands soon to see the picture for himself and we will be able to discuss all these matters then.  In addition I will ask the minister to accept a visit from a delegation of Highlands and Islands conveners in London, as of course the protection of those who earn their living from the sea, sometimes at the risk of life, is common to the entire region”.

Court round up for 15 December 2010

Jail for Holmes

A 30 YEAR old woman from Shetland was sent to jail for a total of nine months after pleading guilty to one case of theft by shoplifting, resetting stolen goods and breaching a probation order for a serious break in.

Rachael Holmes, of 9 Burgadale, Brae, appeared for sentencing before Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday afternoon.

Holmes had admitted at previous court hearings to stealing confectionary from the Co-op supermarket in Brae on 23 June, and resetting a stolen hooded top and hat at Lerwick’s Market Cross, on 4 November.

She also admitted being in breach of a probation order imposed for her role in the break in to the Mossbank shop, in March 2009.

The court hearbd that Holmes’ social inquiry report had not been very encouraging, and despite pleas from defence solicitor Tommy Allan not to send her to jail just before Christmas, sheriff Graeme Napier said she had been given plenty of opportunities to turn her life around.


Disqualification for Kukutis

A YOUNG Latvian man who had admitted driving in the Tesco car park while disqualified and almost four times over the legal limit narrowly escaped a jail sentence when he appeared from custody for sentencing before Lerwick Sheriff Court, on Wednesday.

Edgar Kukutis, of 159 Sandveien, Lerwick, had admitted three charges, all committed on 25 November, at an earlier court hearing.

Addressing the court, defence solicitor Tommy Allan said the offences were “serious”, only to be interrupted by sheriff Graeme Napier who described them as “very serious”.

However the sheriff accepted that having been in custody for almost six weeks, Kukutis had already served the equivalent of almost three months in prison.

“In these circumstances I can deal with this by an alternative to custody. But be under no illusion, if I see you in court again you will be sent to jail,” he warned the 21 year old.

Kukutis was told to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified for five years.


More motoring offences

A LERWICK man was fined £500 and also banned for 18 months after admitting a case of dangerous driving at the town’s South Road and Scalloway road, on 22 June.

Lerwick Sheriff Court heard on Wednesday how John Francis Smith, of 15 Lovers Loan, had failed to give way resulting in another driver being forced to make an emergency stop.

Smith then followed the other car so close that the front of his car could not be seen from the car driven ahead of him. When that driver pulled over, he executed what was described as a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre.

The court heard that Smith was known in the town for the standard of his driving.

Sheriff Graeme Napier gave the unemployed father three months to pay the fine. Failing that he was told that he would have to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work as part of a supervised attendance order.

Smith was also told that if he wanted his driving licence back he needed to pass an extended test of competence.

Sentence on a separate offence in which his car had left the road on 29 September and he failed to report the accident, was deferred until 23 March 2011.

Meanwhile, a former newspaper reporter was fined £700 and banned for 18 months when he appeared before court and admitted driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Peter Johnson, of Broomhill, Reawick, was almost twice the legal limit when he was stopped by police officers on South Road, in Lerwick, in the early hours of 5 December.

The 48 year old was told that he could reduce the period of disqualification by four months should he successfully complete an alcohol rehabilitation course.


 

Fishermen face more cuts

RENEWED calls for reform of fisheries management have followed the outcome of “tough and exhausting” talks to decide next year’s quotas.

Scottish fishermen face further cuts to their already limited opportunity, though they praised the UK and Scottish government negotiating teams for minimising the scale of the reductions.

The talks ended at 5am on Wednesday morning and fishermen complained the timescale was so tight that negotiating teams had to “revert to almost street fighting tactics to secure the best outcome on the limited number of fishing opportunities that were open to change”.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Hansen Black said the white fish fleet would be hit hardest by cuts in haddock and cod, though there was good news on other fronts with increases in the megrim and whiting quotas.

The council rubber stamped cuts agreed at last week’s EU/Norway talks, including:

•a 5 per cent cut in North Sea haddock;
•a 20 per cent cut in North Sea cod;
•a 5 per cent cut in North Sea prawns ( a slight improvement on the original 8 per cent proposed);
•a 15 per cent increase in North Sea whiting;
•a 21 per cent increase in North Sea herring.

Other agreement made included:

* a proposed 15 per cent reduction in monkfish quota on the west coast was reduced to 2 per cent;

* a flat prospect for megrim turned into a 10 per cent increase in the west coast and 5 per cent in the North Sea;

* 50 per cent proposed reductions for West Coast cod and whiting were reduced to 25 per cent each;

* no change on the original proposed reduction for West coast haddock, which remained at minus 25 per cent.

However west coast prawns were cut by 15 per cent, which will have a major impact on that fleet.

Fishermen will also be able to catch extra cod in the North Sea equal to 12 per cent of the reduced TAC (total allowable catch) if they participate in the 'catch quota' scheme, where boats land all the cod they catch, but stop fishing once their allocation of that species has been reached.

It is estimated that between 35 and 40 Scottish whitefish boats will be eligible to participate in the scheme next year, which while up from 2010, still leaves around 75 whitefish vessels and the whole prawn fleet of over 200 vessels outside the scheme.

Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead said: "These tough and exhausting talks have delivered positives for Scotland in some areas and disappointments in others.

“The future remains challenging for many Scottish fishermen, nevertheless I believe that we have done everything we can to secure a fair deal for Scotland, and to show the Commission that we are pushing for significant change in fisheries management.”

Mr Lochhead said he was frustrated the council had ignored their proposal for a zero Total Allowable Catch for West Coast cod and whiting, which would have allowed a limited by catch and helped stocks to recover.

“Instead, impossibly low quotas will effectively lead to discards, as fishermen are forced to throw dead fish back in to the sea,” he said.

Scottish Fishermen's Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said Mr Lochhead and his team should be congratulated for their successes, but that the outcome of the talks resulted in “a sombre picture” for the Scottish fleet, especially on the west coast.

Calling for change to fisheries management, he said: "A lot of our difficulties stem from the regulations and management measures failing to fit the conditions in which the Scottish fleets work.

“There will be some very significant revisions in 2011 - the cod management plan and new arrangements proposed under the review of the Common Fisheries Policy.

“It is essential that these opportunities are seized by the industry and government working together to ensure the introduction of a more effective management regime that enables increased input from the fishing industry and greater regional control.

"Such change would help secure both the future of our fish stocks and our valuable fishing industry."

Mr Lochhead agreed, saying: "No one is satisfied with a system that micro-manages every fishery decision from the Black Sea to the North Sea, from Burgas to Banff, with 27 member states fighting it out. It is a torturous process and with a broken and ineffective Common Fisheries Policy, the need for huge changes in EU fisheries management is abundantly clear.”

Bird charity RSPB agreed there was a need for change, calling for “a Common Fisheries Policy fit for the 21st century, which rewards fishermen who demonstrate they are fishing sustainably, and makes decisions based on sound science”.

Scots Tory MEP Struan Stevenson, senior vice-president of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, called for “root and branch reform” of the Common Fisheries Policy.
 
Mr Stevenson said: “Our fishermen long ago stopped believing in Santa Claus, but the range of cuts imposed by Brussels again this year will make it another bleak Christmas for our beleaguered fishing communities.
 
“Scottish fishermen are surrounded. On one side they have Iceland and the Faroes taking gigantic and unjustifiable quotas from the shared mackerel stock. On the other, they have a Brussels regime which seems intent on slowly strangling them to death.
 
“Once again the need for an urgent and total root and branch reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has been reinforced.
 
“Day to day management of our fisheries must be devolved to the member states so that they can involve the fishermen themselves in devising the most appropriate management plans for their stocks.
 
“Micro-management from Brussels has been a disaster and has to stop. Unfortunately, with these most recent cuts, reform may come too late for some Scottish fishermen.”

Charity demand Viking inquiry

CONSERVATION charity the John Muir Trust has joined calls for a public inquiry after Shetland Islands Council voted in favour of building one of Europe’s largest wind farms on the islands’ mainland.

The trust said that the size and scale of the Viking Energy development, with its 127 turbines reaching 145 metres high, alongside 104 kilometres of tracks, associated buildings and quarries, made it unsuitable for one of the wildest areas in the UK.

The trust’s head of policy Helen McDade said it was a democratic requirement that a full public inquiry was held after just nine of the council’s 22 members voted in favour of the £685 million project.

“This development has major impacts on the landscape and on birdlife that have been identified by a range of bodies, including Scottish Natural Heritage and the RSPB. The Council’s own planning department recommended rejection of the application,” she said.

“Moreover, the character of mainland Shetland will be so fundamentally changed that this will have major social and economic impacts on local people – affecting livelihoods dependent on tourism and affecting property prices.

“Construction traffic for years on the few roads in mainland Shetland will impact on businesses and people’s ability to move around for daily life.

“Given the split in public opinion over the development, with 2,300 objections to the revised plan and 900 letters of support going to the Energy Consents Unit, these issues must be properly investigated at a full independent Public Local Inquiry.”

Had the council objected to the development an inquiry would have been automatically triggered, however only four councillors voted in favour of an inquiry.

Healthy returns help trust recover

SHETLAND Charitable Trust experienced its best ever return on investments during the last financial year earning almost £50 million on its investments.
The charity set up in the 1970s to handle Shetland’s oil wealth on behalf of the community received returns as high as 40 per cent on the stock exchange.
This followed two bad years when the world’s financial markets experienced one of their worst ever crises that has led to the current global financial crisis.
The trust is now worth more than £217 million, close to its target of £220 million but down from its highest peak of £350 million earlier in the decade.
Around £25 million of the trust’s resources are invested in the local economy, which generated an income of £5 million last year, according to its annual report.
Trust chairman Bill Manson said: “In investment terms this has been one of the best years in the history of Shetland Charitable Trust thanks largely to the recovery in the world’s financial markets.
“We are especially pleased that our investments in the local economy have borne
so much fruit.
“However we have to bear in mind that the markets can be volatile. The previous two years were very poor indeed and there is little certainty about future market trends.
“Further pressure on the trust’s budgets could also result from the current cuts in public sector spending and as Shetland’s population ages, which the forecasts predict, then the current 40 per cent of what we spend on the elderly is likely to grow as years go by.”
The trust supports a wide range of community organisations, including the islands’ leisure and care centres.
It has managed to reduce its annual expenditure to £11 million a year after a review of all the main organisations it funds managed to find £2 million in annual savings with minimal impact on services. Administration costs have been reduced by a third to £600,000 over the past seven years.

Amongst the trust’s main investments last year was £250,000 for the CLAN House appeal for a residential centre in Aberdeen supporting families of cancer patients. It has also spent £2.25 million on developing the Viking wind farm project.

New war on fuel prices

THE NORTHERN isles three Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians have asked the Office of Fair Trading to examine why fuel prices are rising so sharply in Shetland and Orkney.
Alistair Carmichael MP and MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur wrote to the OFT amid warnings that heating fuel oil could rise by up to 70 per cent.
The three men have said they believe the current price increases stem from longstanding problems with the fuel market in the northern isles and are urging the OFT to investigate and secure a better deal for consumers in Orkney and Shetland.

Mr Carmichael said: “People in the northern isles are already forced to pay well over the odds for their fuel, whether this is petrol or heating oil. The distribution arrangements for the heating oil market in particular are a cause of significant concern and greater scrutiny is required to secure a better deal for consumers in Orkney and Shetland. An OFT investigation would be an important first step in this respect.”
Mr Scott added: “Sullom Voe is in our midst. Yet we still face record fuel prices and the fact is that only one company brings Shetland’s fuel to the islands from Grangemouth. The company holds a monopoly position and therefore can charge what it likes. So the international rise in crude oil prices and their impact on what we pay at the pump is worsened by a monopoly supplier. That must be investigated and quickly.”
Mr McArthur added: “The high cost of fuel places a real burden on Orkney residents and businesses. For most a car is not a luxury, it’s a necessity, so they have no choice but to pay up and buy the fuel they need.  With our long heating season Orkney suffers high levels of fuel poverty but the high cost of heating oil makes it even worse. The price differential over Scottish mainland prices cannot be justified.”

Discount shceme to drop business travel

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has called on island businesses to join his protest against government plans to cut them out of the Air Discount Scheme (ADS).

Mr Scott introduced the ADS when he was Scottish transport minister in May 2006, giving people in Scotland’s most remote communities a 40 per cent discount on air fares within the country.

As part of its search for savings, the SNP government has been examining the scheme and now plans to cut support from £10.1 million to £8.7 million in the next financial year.

The ADS has European Commission approval until March next year. If that approval is extended the government has pledged to maintain the scheme for all but “business related travel claims”.

Mr Scott has asked new transport minister Keith Brown to justify this move, to explain how it will work and reveal whether the government has assessed its impact on island businesses.

“The cost of flying to and from Shetland is high and is a real tax on island life. That is why I introduced the ADS when I was transport minister and why the funding available was directed through the ADS system to island residents for their personal and business travel,” Mr Scott said.

“I am asking the government how the proposed cut can be justified, and how it will work in practice.

“For a start, many Shetlanders combine business and personal trips. If someone goes south for a business meeting in Aberdeen but also does some personal shopping on Union Street, will they be entitled to the ADS discount?

“The proposal is not just unfair, it is unworkable. I want the Scottish government to reverse these ill-considered proposals, and also want Shetland businesses to tell the transport minister exactly what they think of this plan.”

Last night a spokeswoman for Transport Scotland said: “The scheme is designed to facilitate a better level of social inclusion for individuals in the eligible areas by reducing the high cost of air fares.

“The scheme is not intended to subsidise the business travel budgets of public and private sector employers, and ministers have decided that the use of public funds for this purpose will not be part of the scheme going forward.”

EU threatens reprisals over mackerel

SCOTTISH fishermen have welcomed a European Union commitment to take action against Iceland and Faroe in the international dispute over mackerel.

Both Iceland and Faroe have walked out of talks with the EU and Norway to carve out a share of the north east Atlantic mackerel stock, worth a total of around £500 million.

Now EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki has pledged to find a way to ban EU imports of Icelandic and Faroese mackerel.

The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has welcomed the move, but has said the time has come for action rather than words.

Chief executive Ian Gatt said: “We welcome the statement made by the commissioner, but it is vitally important to convert these words into action as we have had such statements of intent for several months now.

“Any punitive action should not be taken lightly, but the irresponsible behaviour of Iceland and the Faroes is threatening a valuable stock of fish that has been carefully looked after and sustainably harvested by our fishing fleet.”

On Monday during the first day of the annual EU Fisheries Council negotiations over quotas, Ms Damanaki said she was consulting with colleagues on how restrictions on mackerel landings in EU ports could be applied.

She said she would push for new regulations that could result in a ban on fish imports from any state acting outwith international fishery agreements.

However the effectiveness of such a ban is open to question with Faroe already having reached an agreement on selling their mackerel quota to Russia.

Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead, who is in Brussels for the fisheries council talks, said: “Last year total landings of north Atlantic mackerel were worth in excess of £500 million - and in Scotland mackerel directly supports around 2,500 jobs.

“The valuable mackerel stock has been sustainably managed for the past 10 years by Scottish fishermen, as well as others across the EU and Norway. Firm action is needed or the irresponsible practices of Iceland and the Faroes may lead to the demise of the fishery.”

SIC faces complaints after backing wind farm

SHETLAND Islands Council on Tuesday gave their backing to the massive Viking Energy wind farm project.

A recommendation by the council’s own planners to object to the 127 turbine development on environmental grounds was rejected by nine votes to three, with one abstention.

Seven councillors refused to participate in the debate due to their conflict of interest, while two councillors were away.

The SIC will now recommend that Scottish ministers approve the 457 megawatt wind farm to be built on high peat moorland in Shetland’s central and north mainland.

Immediately after the meeting, anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland announced they would be reporting elected members who participated in the debate to the Standards Commission and to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) for alleged breaches of the code of conduct.

Councillors are perceived to have a conflict of interest in the Viking development as they control a 45 per cent share in the wind farm as trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust.

The council had initially set up the Viking Energy Partnership with power giant Scottish & Southern Energy in 2003 before handing their share over to the trust.

After three and half hours of debate and statements from objectors and supporters, it was Shetland South member Rick Nickerson's motion to reaffirm the council's initial support for Viking Energy that comfortably won the day.

Seconded by Shetland North councillor Addie Doull, Mr Nickerson said that in his view the economic and community benefits of the massive development outweighed any negative impacts.

His motion called on Scottish ministers to impose appropriate planning conditions to "ensure that the project minimises any environmental and health impacts which might occur during its construction, operation and ultimate decommissioning phases."

A motion put forward by Shetland West member Gary Robinson to follow the council's own planning department's recommendation to object to the project in its present form only received three votes.

A further motion by Lerwick South councillor Jonathan Wills suggesting Scottish ministers call a public local inquiry had just four supporters.

Tuesday’s hearing gave campaigners both for and against the project the opportunity to air their views prior to councillors debating the issues and coming up with a recommendation that will now be submitted to the Scottish government’s Energy Consents Unit.

Had the council objected, the government would have had to call a public inquiry. It can now either make a decision on the application without any further input early next year, or call a public inquiry if it feels the issues raised need further public scrutiny.

The Shetland community is deeply divided over whether the £685 million project to build one of Europe’s largest onshore wind farms will be an investment to secure future prosperity or will lead to the ruin of island life.

The meeting in the main hall of Lerwick Town Hall was observed by around 80 people.

It kicked off with a short presentation by SIC head of planning Ian McDiarmid, who introduced his 69 page report and explained why he had come to the conclusion the project as put forward to the planning stage would do more harm than good to the local environment.

His position was countered by SIC head of economic development Neil Grant’s short briefing paper on the potential benefits of the project, described as of “paramount economic importance”.

The project would “provide substantial intergenerational economic and social benefits”, Mr Grant concluded.

There followed seven individual presentations from objectors to the scheme, namely Sustainable Shetland chairman Billy Fox, local RSPB area manager Pete Ellis, Nesting resident Ian Malcolmson, former Aith head teacher Jim Nicolson, Kergord resident Evelyn Morrison, semi retired solicitor Richard Rowland from Vaila, and Lerwick resident Caroline Henderson.

Highlighting serious health concerns with regards to the proposed siting of turbines close to homes, Mr Malcolmson and Mrs Morrison’s presentations made the most notable impression on councillors.

Mr Malcomson said the council’s own guidelines on siting of wind turbines recommended between seven and 12 in the Nesting area whereas the developer had plans for 37 machines.

In addition the majority of the 127 proposed wind turbines were planned to be erected less than two kilometres from individual houses and settlements, a proposal that was in breach of government guidelines on siting turbines, he said.

“Viking Energy show their contempt for the local community and blow a hole in their claim that this is a community owned project. It is not!” he said.

Mrs Morrison, who has a brain tumour and suffers from headaches and tinnitus, pointed out that Viking Energy had not delivered on their earlier promise to publish a health risk assessment.

She said she and her husband will have to leave the family home should the development go ahead.

“This has put untold strain on us, it is extremely stressful,” she told councillors. “Please take into consideration the many lives this wind farm will ruin. Look at your conscience and reject it.”

There were three presentations in favour of the development, by Bobby Hunter of the Windfarm Supporters Group, Laura Carse of Pelamis Wave Power, and Yell community councillor Dan Thompson.

Mr Hunter said the proposed wind farm could be regarded as a symbol of Shetland’s commitment towards a sustainable future.

He said the isles needed to make a contribution towards combating global warming, a phenomenon he personally had the chance to witness on a recent holiday to Antarctica.

He said he felt “the tide turning” in public opinion in Shetland and recommended that councillors support the application.

Pelamis project development officer Laura Carse said her company’s plans to develop a 10MW wave farm off the west coast of Shetland would be in jeopardy, should the Viking wind farm not go ahead.

This was because only a project the size of the Viking wind farm would guarantee the subsea cable necessary to export green energy from the isles to the national grid.

She praised “all the ingredients” Shetland had to become a successful player in the emerging marine renewables industry, such as an excellent wave regime, ports and harbours and high quality maritime skills, all well placed to exploit some of the 400 megawatts of recoverable wave energy around the isles’ coast.

Finally Viking Energy Partnership chairman Chris Marden and project manager Aaron Priest made their case before councillors started debating their response.

Mr Marden said the company felt that it had listened to local concerns and had come up with a compromise that should be “acceptable”, having reduced the size of the wind farm from 150 to 127 turbines.

He said Viking Energy was disappointed with the planning report, saying it was “fundamentally flawed” as it only focussed “on the impact but not on the benefits”.

Responding to the health issues raised by Mr Morrison, Mr Marden said it was “standard practice” to apply planning conditions to mitigate against such issues.

Prior to the meeting all 20 councillors present declared their interests as trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust, a 45 per cent shareholder in the venture.

Seven left the meeting either because they declared additional interests as directors of Viking Energy (Caroline Miller, Bill Manson and Alastair Cooper) or as remunerated chair and vice chairman of the charitable trust (Bill Manson and Jim Henry).

Councillors Cecil Smith and Allison Duncan left as they felt unable to debate the issue as a trustee of the charitable trust, and councillor Andrew Hughson did not take part, because his son was contracted to Scottish and Southern Energy, the other main shareholder in the wind farm project.

Kicking off the debate, councillor Nickerson circulated a prepared motion calling on the council to reaffirm its support for the project. He was immediately seconded by councillor Doull.

Next to speak was vice chairman of planning Gary Robinson who said he remained “unconvinced” as to where the balance lies between the impact and the potential benefits.

He said he supported the “professional report” by planners and subsequently moved the recommendations to object to the proposed development.

“That does not mean that there will be no wind farm, it means the application will be properly scrutinised,” he said.

He was seconded by Florence Grains, a former chair of the planning board herself.

Development chairman Josie Simpson said that Shetland’s past and future was closely connected to the sea and as such the marine renewable energy industry was to be the next big thing in the isles.

In order to bring that industry to Shetland, the inter connector was needed, and the only way to get the link into the national grid was by building the Viking wind farm.

Planning chairman Frank Robertson meanwhile said that he was “100 per cent in favour of renewables” but did “absolutely fully concur with the determination by the council’s planning officers”.

He added: “There is the potential for a wind farm of reasonable size”.

Betty Fullerton, Laura Baisley, Gussie Angus, Jim Budge, Robert Henderson and council convener Sandy Cluness all spoke of their difficulty reaching a decision on the protracted issue and expressed concern over the health issues raised.

They all voted in favour of Mr Nickerson’s motion after he had agreed to include in his motion a call for the Scottish minister to ensure that health impacts would be minimised.

Councillor Jonathan Wills, who had abstained during the first vote, moved a further amendment calling for a public inquiry.

He said that elected members were once again going against planning advice, and that just nine out of 22 councillors had made the decision to support the Viking application. However he only received the backing of councillors Robertson, Robinson and Grains.

Reacting to the council decision immediately after the meeting, Aith resident Jim Nicolson said he was “very disappointed”.

“This issue is of such importance that we need a public inquiry to enable deeper consideration of particularly the health issues raised here today,” he said.

Mr Malcolmson said he was “desperately disappointed” and that “a little piece of my love for these islands died today.

“We now live in a community willing to sacrifice the health and well being of some members of the community to serve the financial benefit of the rest of it. I did not believe this would happen in Shetland.”

Billy Fox said Sustainable Shetland had in the past "very deliberately" not reported any elected members to local authority watchdogs, but felt they now had no other choice.

"Councillors have effectively acted as developers here today. They all declared an interest but remained at the meeting. They have not represented what I believe is a majority opposition to this project.

"We always felt that there was a possibility that democracy and common sense would break out in the town hall, unfortunately it has not happened.

"We have already taken the decision in committee that once we reached this stage, if councillors voted to accept the VE proposals, we would report each of these individuals to the Standards Commission and also to OSCR, and that is now going to happen," he said.