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Choppers can land in Lerwick again

SHETLAND's new helicopter emergency landing site at the Clickimin Leisure Complex was officially opened during a short ceremony on Wednesday morning.

The £85,000 landing site replaces the old facility nearby which was lost to the community five years ago, when it became part of the new running track developed for the international island games, held in 2005.

Since then casualties airlifted to Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital had either been taken to the Tingwall landing strip seven miles away, or to Sumburgh airport 25 miles away.

Speaking after the ribbon was cut by Anna Glowacka, an under graduate placement with the council's emergency planning services, NHS Shetland chairman Ian Kinniburgh said the landing site would help save lives.

"Having a permanent facility close to the hospital where the helicopter can safely land means that we now know that we will get patients to treatment in the shortest possible time.

"This means that it will be saving lives and improving the outcome for folk that need this emergency service," he said.

Following the introduction of the new Sikorsky 92 helicopters in 2008, the Shetland Emergency Planning Forum had to find a new location that could cope with the new helicopter’s much heavier airframe.

In addition the new landing site needed trolley and vehicle access to the aircraft.

The isles' chief emergency planning officer John Taylor said that a new landing site would have needed whether the old one had been lost or not.

"The facility was old and was getting past its sell by date. It was only able to take the old Sikorsky 61, so the search was on to find a suitable site to replace the helicopter landing site."

The site was paid for jointly by the Scottish government, NHS Shetland, the Scottish Ambulance Service and Shetland Islands Council.

Wills cleared by Standards Commission

SHETLAND councillor Jonathan Wills has been cleared of all 10 complaints made against him to the Standards Commission for Scotland by the local authority’s most senior councillors and officials.

The complaints by Shetland Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness, vice convener Josie Simpson, former chief executive Dave Clark, acting chief executive Hazel Sutherland and monitoring officer Jan Riise were made last October.

They followed a strongly worded statement issued to all council staff by Dr Wills following a council investigation into his allegations that the former chief executive had threatened to kick his teeth in.

The internal inquiry found insufficient evidence to prove the threats were made, but Dr Wills said the investigation had “trampled” on his civil rights by refusing to consider crucial evidence and legal arguments, preventing him from questioning witnesses or having a lawyer with him.

His public statement entitled “Hardly a Surprise” was sent to more than 3,000 employees via email, triggering the complaints from the council leadership that he had failed to uphold the councillors’ code of conduct.

Since then Mr Clark has left the council after receiving a substantial tax free payment, and local government watchdog The Accounts Commission has announced it will be holding a public hearing into recent events at Scotland’s northernmost authority.

This week the chief investigating officer with the Standards Commission, Stuart Allan, has written to Dr Wills and the complainants with his 37 page decision that the code had not been contravened.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dr Wills said: “The past seven months have been stressful for me and my family, as I could have been banned from holding public office for up to five years if found guilty.

“However, upon reading the exhaustively detailed, forensic investigation that exonerates me, I now understand why it has taken so long to complete.”

He also issued a public apology to SIC head of planning Iain McDiarmid for publishing a letter he had written about the way a planning application for Lerwick’s new £50 million Anderson High School had been handled, after the Standards Commission said it was “extremely unwise”.

“I acted in the heat of the moment and this was an error. I do not, however, withdraw a word of what I said in the letter,” the councillor said.

He quoted the report, which has not yet been made public, that said: "The purpose of the Code is not to stifle comment made by difficult, tenacious, stubborn, thrawn or recalcitrant politicians, if there is a stateable - even remote - public interest argument, as self evidently there is in this case."

Dr Wills added: “I wish to thank my family, my constituents and those of my elected colleagues who have stood by me during this most unpleasant experience.

“Thrawn as I am, I will continue to ask awkward questions about public business, without fear or favour - but also to give SIC staff credit where credit's due (as it almost always is in this council).”

He added that he would continue to ask that the complainers, who he refers to as “The Dave Clark Five”, to repay more than £3,000 – “the cost of SIC legal and administrative resources employed in their failed attempt to make me a scapegoat for the Clark affair, and to have me excluded from the council chamber.”

Mr Clark refused to comment on the decision, while both Ms Sutherland and Mr Riise said they were bound by the confidentiality provisions of ethical standards legislation and therefore could not comment. Mr Simpson was unavailable for comment.

Last week the Standards Commission cleared Shetland West councillor Gary Robinson over comments he made about local knitwear company Judane (Shetland) Ltd and fellow councillor Caroline Miller, an unpaid consultant to the firm.

Sella Ness camp goes on display

A STEADY stream of local people visited Brae community hall on Tuesday to gain an impression of the massive accommodation block planned to house up to 800 workers who will build Total’s new gas processing plant, near Sullom Voe.

The French oil and gas giant is investing £2.5 billion to bring the Laggan-Tormore gas fields, west of Shetland, on stream by 2014.

The development is seen as a vital piece in the jigsaw to provide long term energy security to the UK.

Work on preparing the ground for the £500 million gas treatment and processing plant is already under way with construction work on the plant itself expected to commence by the middle of next year.

Total now plans to lodge a planning application for a “temporary accommodation facility” at Sella Ness by the end of June.

On Tuesday the first computer-generated images of what is being proposed were made public in Brae to give local people the chance to comment.

A spokeswoman for consultants Archial Services said they had so far received mainly positive feedback.

The plan is to build an accommodation block with a floor area of 11,200 square metres at the Sella Ness industrial estate, which will include dining facilities, recreation area, a gymnasium, reading and computer rooms, as well as a medical facility, a café and a bar.

Should planning consent be granted later this year, the two storey development will be built in four phases between autumn 2010 and spring 2012, with the first phase operational by summer next year.

The complex, built on a 1.97 hectare site near the Sella Ness slipway, will be needed until summer of 2014 and will be dismantled thereafter.

The development will be built from pre-fabricated modules shipped to Shetland and clipped together on site.

Once dismantled again in 2014 the modules could be re-used for a similar development elsewhere.

Auditors examine SIC/Judane settlement

LOCAL government watchdog Audit Scotland will be reporting on the financial settlement between Shetland Islands Council and local knitwear firm Judane (Shetland) Ltd later this year.

On Monday the auditors confirmed that the Judane settlement, in which the council agreed to waive £411,000 of debt to Shetland Development Trust, has been the subject of specific focus in their annual analysis of the SIC’s accounts.

The settlement has been a source of great controversy and concern in the isles since it was agreed last December. Councillors were told that it was the best deal they could expect as most of the unpaid sum represented compound penalty interest, which they could not enforce.

In return the company agreed not pursue a claim against the council after their plans to sell the Judane factory in 2005 were scuppered by a planning decision that was overturned following a public hearing in 2007.

On Monday an Audit Scotland spokeswoman said that they were looking at the settlement as part of their annual audit of the SIC, which will be published in October.

“The annual audit looks at the council over the year, but sometimes they decide to look slightly more closely at certain issues and this is one of the issues they will look at a little more closely,” she said.

SIC head of legal and administration Jan Riise said that he and head of economic development Neil Grant had already met with the auditors and spent around two hours discussing the settlement.

Mr Riise said: “They have not come back to us with any feedback or more questions, which suggests to me they have not found any concerns with how things progressed. They have certainly not come back with any issues.”

Last week the council cleared councillor Gary Robinson of breaching the councillor’s code of conduct over comments he made concerning Judane in an article in Shetland News last December.

Their report published last week says of the legal settlement:  “The details of the loans, the repayment terms, and fiscal decisions which led to the eventual settlement lay outwith the scope of the Code and are currently under consideration by Audit Scotland.”

The public version of the Standards Commission report can be found at: http://www.standardscommissionscotland.org.uk/investigations/shetland_island/la_si_932_933.html

The Accounts Commission have still not given a date for their public hearing into Shetland Islands Council, though it is expected to take place before the end of June to avoid the summer holiday period.

Drug problems blamed for break ins

A LERWICK businessman has spoken of his disillusion with life in the town after his company was broken into over the weekend and cash was stolen.

Thieves broke into G&S Flooring’s warehouse on the Gremista Industrial Estate some time between 5.10pm on Saturday and 8am on Monday morning, making off with money they found on the premises.

Two other town businesses were victims of thieves on the same night, with money stolen from Monty’s Bistro on Mounthooly Street, and damage caused to a shed door at RE Watt’s garage on the Gremista industrial estate, though nothing was taken.

Gary Williams, who employs 11 people at G&S Flooring, said that he had been badly affected by the break in and believes there is a crime wave being carried out in Lerwick by drug addicts looking for money to feed their habits.

“I have worked up here for a lot of years and I feel very disheartened by the state of things in the town,” he said.

“Maybe I have been lucky and got away with it for longer than most, but there’s been a lot of premises broken into and I am not happy with it at all.”

On Monday Mr Williams was already ordering CCTV cameras and new alarms for his premises and says he will never leave cash lying around on site again. “I am sorry it’s come to that. The previous owner of the business had it 25 years and we’ve had it eight years. In more than 30 years we’ve never had to take steps like this.”

He is clear that the problem is caused by the growing number of people taking hard drugs in Shetland.

“Lerwick has certainly changed from even 10 years ago. You see the evidence of drugs everywhere you go.

“Whatever habit they acquire they need a good sum of money to feed it and that leads to crime. I do sympathise with the police; they can’t be everywhere and the amount of drugs up here seems to be phenomenal.

“I think you will find there’s a huge part of the Shetland population that feels the same way I do. They have had enough of the drugs.”

Mr Williams said that he was more upset about the invasion of his privacy than the money that was taken. “You feel once they have done it they could do it again, but I will make sure if they do they are on candid camera.”

On Monday afternoon the police issued another reminder to businesses to make sure they had adequate security, making sure doors and windows, alarms systems and CCTV cameras and security lighting are all working properly.

They also advised companies not to leave money on the premises or in vehicles, and that vehicles and outbuildings are properly secured.

Room mix up sparks huge search

AN ELDERLY tourist who spent the night in the wrong room at a Lerwick youth hostel room sparked a major air, land and sea search in Lerwick.

Lerwick lifeboat, the Sumburgh based search and rescue helicopter, the Lerwick coastguard search team and the police were all out searching the town and harbour in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday)

After several hours the 72 year old woman from Yorkshire was found safe and well at Lerwick’s youth hostel Islesburgh House.

Police received the initial call at 1.28am and requested assistance from Shetland Coastguard at 4.45am.

A police spokesman said: “It would appear a break down in communication between travelling companions had resulted in the missing person spending the night in a different room from that allocated to her.”

 

Government committed to fuel pilots

THE PRESSURE to run a pilot scheme with reduced fuel costs in Scotland’s islands is gathering momentum.

Cross party MSPs from the northern and western isles have written to chancellor George Osbourne asking him to run pilot schemes in their constituencies.

Meanwhile under secretary of state for Scotland David Mundell confirmed that the coalition government is committed to finding a way of reducing fuel costs in remote and rural areas.

Speaking in Shetland at the weekend, Mr Mundell said: “The coalition government is committed to look at getting a derogation from the EU to have a differential tax on fuel within the UK.

“The aspiration is to have a number of pilot projects and I am absolutely sure that the secretary of state for Scotland will be arguing at the heart of government that these pilots or at least one of these should be here in Scotland.

“Quite clearly given the level of fuel prices, particularly in northern Scotland and the islands, it’s a prime candidate to have that pilot. Motoring isn’t a luxury in this part of the world, it’s an absolute necessity, and I think everyone has picked up in the general election the need to do something about it.”

Liberal Democrat MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur joined SNP MSP Alasdair Allan in signing the letter to Mr Osbourne, pointing out that their three constuencies “regularly compete in fuel prices surveys for the unwelcome prize of having the highest price”.

They wrote: “The high cost of fuel, in places where public transport alternatives to the private car are inevitably limited, imposes a serious burden on our constituents. Individuals and businesses suffer.

“Not only is the need for action to cut costs greater in the islands than elsewhere, but the boundaries of the islands are already clearly defined. So an island pilot could go ahead without the need to spend time trying to define the boundaries for a mainland based pilot.”



Sudden death of Lerwick father

SHETLAND police said there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances surrounding the sudden death of a Lerwick man at the weekend.

The 53 year old father was found in the Sandveien area of Lerwick around half past midnight on Friday night with a suspected head injury. He was taken immediately to Gilbert Bain Hospital where he died.

The police put out an appeal for anyone who might have seen anything at the time. A post mortem will be carried out to find out the cause of death.

Excessive speed causes accident

A 17 YEAR old teenager is to be reported to the procurator fiscal following a road accident at Gremista, in Lerwick, in the early hours of Saturday.

Police said it was fortunate that no one was injured in the one vehicle accident, which left the young man’s car extensively damaged.

Sergeant Gordon Fowler said this morning (Monday) that the accident was caused by “excessive speed for the road conditions”.

Meanwhile, police are calling for witnesses to come forward after the payphone at the Vidlin ferry terminal was damaged in an act of “senseless vandalism”, sometime between Thursday and yesterday (Sunday). 

Police also said that a 30 year man was arrested and will be reported to the procurator fiscal for shoplifting from one of the Lerwick supermarkets, on Sunday.

 

In brief for 14 May 2010

Fruit and veg boat towed in

A CARGO boat carrying five tonnes of fruit and vegetables to Faroe broke down off Orkney on Thursday morning.

Shetland coastguard helicopter Rescue 102 and emergency towing vessel Anglian Sovereign were launched and stood by as the Orkney tug Harald went to the scene five nautical miles north west of Westray.

After successfully attaching a tow rope, the Silver Fjord and its 10 crew were expected to arrive at Kirkwall by 11pm on Thursday night.

 

Speed campaign

NORTHERN Constabulary will be stepping up traffic patrols at the weekend as part of a campaign to get drivers to slow down.

The three day Country Roads campaign begins on Friday with extra officers on the road looking out for drivers going to fast or driving dangerously.

The police say that 70 per cent of fatal road collisions occur in non-built up areas and more than half of motorcycle accidents resulting in death or serious injury happen on country roads.

 

Chopper base

THE NEW emergency helicopter landing site at Lerwick’s Clickimin will be officially opened on Wednesday 26 May.

The new site will be used by Shetland coastguard when delivering medical emergencies to the Gilbert Bain Hospital

 

Trust grants

SHETLAND Charitable Trust has handed out grants worth more than £10,000 to community organisations during April.

West Sandwick public hall receives £668 for new tables; Shetland Needleworkers received £369 towards the cost of a two day embroidery workshop at Voxter; and grants worth £9,351 were given to seven senior citizen clubs to help with their running costs.

The voluntary groups themselves had to raise more than £11,000 themselves towards their own expenditure.

 

All Energy 2010

THE FIRST full economic valuation ever undertaken of Britain’s offshore renewable resource will be presented on the opening morning of next week’s All Energy 2010 conference, the biggest renewable energy event in the UK.

Over two days from Wednesday to Friday (19-21 May) almost more than 270 speakers will be highlighting the world of offshore wind, bioenergy, wave and tidal devices, hydropower, hydrogen and fuel cells, microgeneration and onsite renewables for homes business, communities and farmers.

Crucial to the conference will be three sessions about finance and funding - one a financing and commercialising networking event, a second looking at public funding of the low carbon landscape, and a third looking at the funding of large projects.

The events main sponsor is Swedish energy firm Vatenfall, who have their eyes on developing a wave farm off Shetland mainland’s west coast.

 

TAQA doing well

THE ABU Dhabi National Energy Co, which owns TAQA UK who own one quarter of Sullom Voe oil terminal, reported a sevenfold increase in profits during the first quarter with the rise in crude prices.

The company is expanding its operations in the North Sea with new drilling to take place, the company said.

Joint venture to save Fair Isle knitting

A SHETLAND wool broker and an Edinburgh-based luxury e-commerce business are joining forces to offset the impact of the council's decision to end knitting lessons in local schools.

Thistle & Broom managing director Teresa Fritschi said she was dismayed by Shetland Islands Council's decision last week to discontinue knitting classes to save £130,000.

In collaboration with island wool brokers Jamieson & Smith, Thistle & Broom are now offering financial incentives to encourage kids to learn Fair Isle knitting in the hope that the skill will help them earn a living.

Thistle & Broom pays 66 per cent of their retail price to its hand knitters, with authentic Fair Isle sweaters retailing for up to £525 on the Thistle & Broom website at www.thistleandbroom.com

Ms Fritschi said the finer details of her efforts had still to be worked out, but she compared the situation to the "battle" to preserve Harris Tweed.

"It would be an understatement to say how dismayed we are at the council's decision to save £130,000.00 annually in cutting this vital programme from the curriculum of Shetland's schools.

"The potential long term economic impact of this decision makes it seem very short-sighted.

"In cooperation with Jamieson & Smith we have a tremendous opportunity to mitigate the impact of this decision or perhaps reverse it," she said.

Jamieson & Smith purchases 80 per cent of the fleece available from Shetland's flocks.

The company believes their 80 year old business, their Shetland staff and the local crofters who provide the fleeces would all suffer without new generations of knitters.

Marketing executive Connie Smith said the domino effect of the school budget cuts would be broad and long term.

"Both of our businesses are focussed upon positively impacting local economies and growing organically within Scotland's borders," she said.

Ms Fritschi added that knitwear connoisseurs from around the world often queue for months for the privilege of owning an authentic, hand-knit Fair Isle jumpers offered through Thistle & Broom.

"In the absence of council funding hopefully we're able to fill the void by providing the financial incentive for kids to learn the skills from their grandmothers and thus allow for the perpetual continuation of this amazing craft," she said.

The collaboration will likely include streamlined ordering of the yarns for the knitters with the benefit of a trade discount available.

In addition, the Jamieson & Smith three sheep logo will now adorn every T&B garment made with their yarns as documentation of authenticity and the source of yarn.


 

An engagement with isles history

SEVEN international scholars from a variety of disciplines will visit Shetland for a seminar series organised by The Centre for Nordic Studies UHI.

Hosted in partnership with the Shetland Museum and Archives, all lectures are free of charge and will run from this month to November.

All lectures will be held at 7.30 pm at the Shetland Museum and Archives, except on the 25 June, when the lecture will be held at Scalloway’s NAFC Marine Centre.

The first lecture 'Place names: Messengers from the past ... and from across the North Sea', by Dr Berit Sandnes of the University of Lund (Sweden), will take place next Thursday 20 May.

Dr Sandnes will be talking about the adaption of Old Norse place names in the Scots language and what these names from the past tell us about the history of places and people in Orkney and Shetland.

On 4 June Michael P. Barnes, professor emeritus of Scandinavian Studies at the University College London, will talk about 'Runes and Runic inscriptions: Shetland, and the Scandinavian Background', drawing on his great expertise in the field of runology.

The next lecture on 25 June 25 will deal with the 'Two Naturalists: Linnaeus and William McGillivray'.

Dr Peter Graves of Edinburgh University will discuss why most people have never heard of William MacGillivray, a leading Scottish naturalist, whilst his Swedish counterpart Carl von Linné (Linnaeus) is known as the father of modern taxonomy and ecology.

On 20 August Dr Barbara Crawford, honorary reader in medieval history at University of St. Andrews, will give a lecture on 'The Shetland Earldom', based on her many years of research on Scandinavian settlements in Scotland.

On 24 September Shetland archivist Brian Smith will be asking a familiar question: 'When did Shetland and Orkney leave the Nordic kingdom?'

Dr Frode Iversen, head of the Department of Archaeology at the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, will visit Shetland on 29 October and give a lecture on 'The Growth of Royal Power in Scandinavia 800-1200 AD'.

The final lecture of the year will be given by Dr Andrew Newby of the University of Aberdeen, on 26 November, when he will be talking about 'Rebuilding the Archdiocese of Nidaros: The Catholic "North Pole Mission” in Orkney and Shetland, 1860-1869'.

Director of the Centre for Nordic Studies, Donna Heddle, said she was delighted to be able to offer a prestigious seminar series to everybody in Shetland.

"This type of activity is exactly what the Centre for Nordic Studies is all about - opening up new opportunities for people to come to Shetland and, most importantly, for people in Shetland to be able to engage with their history," she said.

A similar programme of lectures will also be held in Orkney

More information is available at:
www.uhi.ac.uk/home/research/research-centres/centre-for-nordic-studies


 

 

No appetite for more savings

AN ATTEMPT to establish a new review group to keep squeezing annual spending at Shetland Charitable Trust found no backers on Thursday.

A meeting of the trust in Lerwick heard that a previous spending review had identified almost £2 million of savings from the charity's £13 million revenue budget.

Trustee Rick Nickerson told the meeting that so far only the larger beneficiaries of SCT had to undergo the painful process of identifying cuts of around eight per cent, while the smaller voluntary groups had only to cope with a  standstill budget, which represented a real cut of just two per cent.

He said it was "unfair" not to look at all the funded bodies to make efficiency savings.

But he received no seconder to his motion as there was little appetite among fellow trustees to embark on yet another round of spending reviews.

Instead the meeting agreed to leave it to officers to keep a close eye on spending with the option to re-instate the review group should the need arise.

Chairman Bill Manson agreed with trust manager Ann Black who had argued that a period of consolidation was needed.

"We don't need a sledge hammer to crack nuts," Mr Manson said.

Shetland Charitable Trust is worth almost £220 million and uses its annual profits to part fund a series of social care, sports, arts and amenity organisations throughout the islands.

 

Carmichael is a coalition convert

A CUT in fuel duty for island communities and fairer transmission charges are two ambitions northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael hopes to see come out of this week’s Liberal Democrat coalition agreement with the Conservative government.

Speaking late on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Carmichael said that he had not slept since Saturday when he arrived in Westminster following his success at the polls, due to his alarm at the prospect of his party going into government with the Tories.

After four days of negotiations that produced a four page coalition agreement, he said he was now “genuinely excited” about the future.

He believes that local people who share his initial concerns about the deal should read the document themselves to see how much LibDem policy is in there. They should also realise that the Labour Party were simply not interested in a meaningful coalition.

While Labour refused to budge on ID cards, the Tory negotiating team had no difficulty dropping inheritance tax. The referendum on electoral reform would also have been in doubt with Labour, he said.

“There are a lot of headline grabbing things in the agreement: linking the state pension to average earnings, raising the tax threshold, the development of marine renewables.

“But the thing that actually pleases me the most is the commitment to end the detention of children in immigration removal centres.

“That isn’t a big headline thing, but in terms of gauging the mood and tenor of the government, I think that is decent, civilised, progressive politics. I don’t think that would be in there but for us.

“It is something the Labour Party have wrung their hands but done nothing about for years, and there are small things like that which I would point to and say will make a real difference.”

On local matters, there are “a number of issues” Mr Carmichael hopes to see rapid progress on, including a fairer system for charging for the transmission of electricity. That would make the Viking Energy project more viable, and could also help reduce its size as less capacity would be needed to pay for a cable to the mainland.

However his first priority is fuel duty. “I have already had discussions with some people about how we might tackle fuel prices. These are at the very, very early stages, but the refreshing thing is that we are having conversations which start with a presumption of finding solutions and not just searching for an excuse to do nothing.”

Also of benefit to the isles is the shift from air passenger duty to a plane duty. When that happens the coalition has agreed that island lifeline flights will be exempted from such a tax. “It could mean a reduction in fares up here, but that tax has already been reduced for island passengers so it’s not enormous.”

On Wednesday Mr Carmichael had yet to be offered a job in the government. He had been tipped as late as Tuesday to become the Secretary of State for Scotland, but that position went to “one of my best friends”, Highland MP Danny Alexander who played a major role in the coalition talks.

The relationship with Scotland will be under great scrutiny. The Conservatives have only one MP in the country and the LibDems just 11 on a reduced vote.

However despite having previously argued for an end to the Scottish Office, Mr Carmichael sees opportunities under the new regime.

“The tribalism between the Labour Party and the SNP is quite breathtaking sometimes and there is now an opportunity to improve on that. If Alex Salmond can be sufficiently statesmanlike and take that opportunity, then I think there are real opportunities.”

He cited the recent example of Scottish fishing secretary Richard Lochhead being barred from EU talks in Spain. “That was outrageous, sheer naked tribalism and that sort of thing is unnecessary. It could be changed and that would be a real benefit to Shetland.

“I would say that this is an opportunity to make the relationship between the government in Edinburgh and the government in London work better.”

The Scottish Parliament is to receive greater powers under recommendations by the Calman Commission, and could benefit from extra income to match the “pupil premium” payments being introduced in England and Wales.

But the reality of public spending cuts will have to be accepted, he said, even by Scotland’s first minister, who Mr Carmichael described as “the arch deficit denier”.

As a party, the main plank of LibDem policy has been electoral reform and it was one issue on which the party was never going to compromise.

Mr Carmichael said he was very happy with the agreement to have “a whipped vote” on the referendum, which virtually guarantees it will take place.

The outcome will be decided by a simple majority, unlike the referendum on Scottish independence in the 1970s, and strict limits will be placed on how much each party can spend on campaigning.

“It will be up to us to campaign for it in a referendum. Maybe some Conservatives will campaign against it, but it’s the best chance we have ever had of getting electoral reform and it’s more than we would get from anyone else.

“The Labour Party had a referendum on the alternative vote as part of their manifesto, but they indicated during the negotiations that they couldn’t even guarantee delivering that because they thought a lot of their back benchers might oppose it.”

On the highways and byways of the northern isles there is suspicion about the deal, just as there is throughout the country. But Alistair Carmichael MP is a convert.

“I would say to people, judge this agreement by its contents, not by the fact that it involves the Conservatives, because I think this is an agreement which is well rooted in the principles of fairness and change on which I contested the general election.

“There are some elements on which I am not 100 per cent happy, but you have to judge if the price is worth paying, and the Conservatives have had to pay a price as well.

“This is an agreement that I can be enthusiastic about. It took me some time to get used to the idea of working with the Conservatives.  On the occasions I have worked with other parties it has generally been with the Labour Party, the SNP or the Greens.

“So it’s something of a learning curve for me and it wasn’t an expectation I came to London with on Saturday. But as the negotiations have progressed and as I have seen what’s in the agreement, I have ultimately become enthusiastic for the possibilities that it offers.

“I would not be part of this if I had thought that this wasn’t an agreement which was consistent with Liberal Democrat principles and values.”

Sandy welcomes public hearing into SIC

SHETLAND Islands Council convener Sandy Cluness has welcomed the Accounts Commission’s decision to hold a public hearing into the local authority.

The local government finance watchdog called for the hearing after discussing a report by the Controller of Audit into the way the SIC is run, and particularly the recruitment and subsequent departure of its former chief executive David Clark.

Accounts Commission chairman John Baillie said: “The commission is particularly interested to hear first hand from the council and other relevant parties to gather further evidence and understand better the council’s situation.”

Mr Cluness said he hoped the public hearing would be held shortly and expected it to be conducted before the end of June.

Last December the Accounts Commission expressed “serious concern” about events in Shetland after difficulties between councillors and Mr Clark became headline news and Audit Scotland qualified the council’s accounts for the fourth time.

They sent in auditors to carry out an investigation and yesterday discussed the subsequent report, which was highly critical of the way the authority has been run, pointing to failures of leadership and members not acting in the interests of the council as a whole.

It also said that working relationships within the SIC had deteriorated during the tenure of Mr Clark to the point that it might not be able to perform effectively as an organisation.

Mr Clark left office in January eight months after taking up the post of chief executive. The following month he was awarded a tax free sum of £285,000, with the council picking up his legal costs.

The move caused uproar in the community and brought calls for Mr Clark to be sacked and councillors to resign en masse.

Yesterday convener Cluness said that he hoped a public hearing would explain why the council had been advised to pay Mr Clark so much public money.

“At long last we might get everything out into the open and (local government umbrella group) COSLA will be able to say why they advised us as they did,” he said.

Mr Cluness regards the hearing as a positive step which will help the council on the road to recovery.

“We will have to do our best to present the council. Despite what is being said about it, it still delivers good services and makes a big contribution to these islands. This has been a difficult period, but I think we have a good story to tell.”

The hearing was also welcomed by local MSP Tavish Scott, who said: "Local people in Shetland have been very concerned by recent events.

"The Accounts Commission's decision to hold a public inquiry is an important step in ensuring that local people understand what happened and that lessons will be learnt for the future."

Councillor Gussie Angus, who chairs the council’s powerful services committee, said he had no idea what the hearing would involve or who would be interviewed “but if it helps to shed light on dark corners I think it’s a good thing”.

Mr Angus was one of six councillors who sent a letter to convener Cluness in December last year listing 20 concerns about Mr Clark’s performance.

The commission will publish its findings and present any recommendations to the council and perhaps Scottish ministers as well.

This will be the third public hearing into a local authority in Scotland. The Accounts Commission will shortly announce details of when and where it will be held, along with who will be interviewed and how long it will take.

SIC councillors will discuss the Controller of Audit’s report at their next full council meeting on Wednesday 19 May.

The SIC is currently advertising for an interim chief executive to replace Mr Clark for a period of two and a half years. It is understood a substantial number of people have shown an interest in the position.

Four caught in speeding crackdown

SHETLAND police have warned motorists to slow down after four drivers were caught speeding in the isles in just one day.

On Wednesday officers issued £60 fixed penalties and three penalty points to three drivers breaking the speed limit on the islands’ main A970 spine road and outside Lerwick’s Sound primary school.

A fourth driver was travelling so fast they are being reported to the procurator fiscal and may appear in court.

The isles force is running a road safety campaign carrying out speed checks using a hand held pro-laser speed gun and following vehicles in marked cars with calibrated speedometers.

A spokesman said: “We are absolutely committed to improving road safety across the islands and reducing the number of accidents and injuries. We will continue to do whatever is necessary until this safety message gets through to motorists.

“Not only do drivers who speed face a criminal conviction  and penalty points on their driving license, but they also risk an increased insurance premium for a number of years.”

He said that one the same day a woman had been issued with a £60 fixed penalty and three points for driving through a red light at roadworks on Lerwick’s Church Road.

“These traffic lights are put in place for safety reasons, and breaching them is a serious matter,” he said.

In brief for 13 May 2010

Ash impact

LOGANAIR on Wednesday reported that they had suffered a 25 per cent drop in passenger numbers during April due to disruptions caused by volcanic ash.

The airline said that a total of 122 flights in and out of Shetland had to be cancelled, inconveniencing around 2,200 passengers.

Following more disruptions on Monday this week, Loganair has now been given permission to fly lower than usual to make way for increased transatlantic air traffic using Scottish airspace due to ash clouds in the north Atlantic.

 

Tall ships shuttle

LIFELINE ferry operator NorthLink is planning to run a time-tabled shuttle service with two vessels during the Tall Ships Races, which comes to Lerwick between 21 and 24 July next year.

Chief executive Bill Davidson said on Wednesday that his company have been in discussion with organisers for some time to find a solution to the logistical problem of allowing crew changes of around 1,500 sailors.

Mr Davidson told a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s external transportation forum that the plan to have a round the clock service still had to be sanctioned by the Scottish government.

There are also plans for additional flights in and out of Shetland.

 

Multi tasking traffic warden

A newly appointed traffic warden will patrol the streets of Lerwick as of next Monday.

Angus Meudell will not just hand out tickets to motorists, the qualified plumber will also be looking after the police station in Lerwick as caretaker.

 

Trust to boost local economy

SHETLAND’S oil funded charitable trust is to increase its investments in the local economy by one third, it announced on Wednesday.

The move comes after the organisation revealed it had experienced one of its best ever years on the stock exchange, growing its investment funds by 24 per cent to almost £220 million.

Trustees have also succeeded in balancing the books for the first time, by reducing expenditure from £17 million in 2002 to £11 million a year, the amount they expect to receive in interest on their investments.

The money is spent supporting local organisations that run leisure centres, care homes, heritage and cultural projects as well as the local voluntary sector.

However in a bid reduce their exposure to the volatility of the world markets, as demonstrated just last week when the stock exchange fell dramatically, the trust is seeking to increase its investment in the local economy.

Currently SCT has £30 million invested locally in property, Lerwick’s district heating scheme and Viking Energy Ltd, which holds a 50 per cent stake in plans to build Europe’s largest onshore wind farm in Shetland.

The trust intends to increase its local investments by at least £10 million over the next two years, a figure that could rise if new investment opportunities turn up.

If the Viking wind farm goes ahead it could double the trust’s income, though many islanders have voiced their opposition to the development and it has some way to go in the planning process.

The extra income will be welcome for an organisation which faces growing costs in the future on supporting the islands’ aging population and the trust’s aging buildings.

Trust chairman Bill Manson said: "The trustees have displayed considerable patience throughout a long period of retrenchment, and understand that the difficult choices they have had to make this past year have not been easy for the organisations the trust supports.

"However we believe we have placed the future of the trust on a sounder footing than it has been for the past eight years and must now concentrate on sustaining and developing the trust's activities into the future."

Financial controller Jeff Goddard added: “By sensibly investing more money in local assets such as rented property, the trust can protect our community funds and help the islands’ economy at the same time.

“However costs are always rising and big decisions will still be needed to keep up our high level of expenditure in the local community.”

 

Petrol head heaven

FROM THE last week in May owners of classic cars will begin arriving in Shetland for a weekend that should warm the hearts of motoring fanatics from 9 to 90.

The organisers of this year's Shetland Classic Motor Show have put together another stunning show for an “unmissable” weekend.

On 5 and 6 June Lerwick’s Clickimin Leisure Complex will play host to hundreds of classic dream cars, lorries, tractors, motorbikes and stationary engines.

The show, described as “petrol head heaven”, will feature almost 200 cars from as early as 1913, including two Sunbeam Talbot Darracqs and an Aston Martin DB9.

Several planned tours across the isles will see the cars out and about on the days prior to the show and for a few days after.

Maurice Mullay, from the organising team, said: "For just a taster, and for the younger visitors to do some research on the internet, look out for the big 7.3 Litre Jensen Interceptor Mk3, a lovely Ford Model T from Orkney, a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 2, the young man's dream car, or look out for a Jaguar 'E' Type.

"Be assured the show will offer something for everyone and is a weekend not to be missed.

"The Shetland Classic Car Show offers a great deal and as the most northerly show in the British Isles is unique for visitors and exhibitors alike."

Further info at www.shetlandcms.co.uk

Total’s dormitory plans welcomed

SHETLAND North councillor Alastair Cooper has welcomed Total’s plans to build an 800 bed accommodation block at Sella Ness for workers building its £500 million gas processing plant.

As chairman of Delting Community Council, Mr Cooper has already seen the plans for a two storey, H-block style building, which will be erected in stages and then dismantled once the job is over in 2014.

Describing the designs as “functional”, he welcomed the fact that the huge dormitory block will include a full suite of leisure facilities, including a bar, as it will encourage the workers to stay on site and reduce the likelihood of “friction” with the local communities.

The erection of a workers’ camp brings back memories of the 1970s when BP was building Sullom Voe Terminal, but this project will be a fraction of the size. Back then initial plans to accommodate 1,200 workers mushroomed to house another 2,400.

However there will be a boost to the local economy in terms of jobs for ancillary staff and business for local suppliers.

“It should make good money for a year or two. The UK is going into recession and in Shetland we are going to need other work to replace public sector jobs,” Mr Cooper said.

Oil company Total, who are behind the plans, will have to meet stringent environmental checks on waste water and sewage as Sullom Voe is one of Shetland’s most protected environments.

Consultants Archial Planning will be holding a public meeting to consult on the plans for the accommodation block at Brae Public Hall on 25 May between 10am and 4pm, and again from 6pm to 8pm, with a presentation at 7pm.

In brief for 12 May 2010

Fish for breakfast

FISHING leaders will be debating the future of fish stocks with one of the industry’s great detractors at this month’s Fishing 2010 exhibition in Glasgow.

Environmental journalist, author and film maker Charles Clover will hold a breakfast seminar about the urgent need for urgent action to conserve fish stocks, including a showing of his controversial film End of the Line.

A discussion will follow featuring a panel including Mr Clover, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s Bertie Armstrong, WWF Scotland’s Louize Hill and Professor Callum Roberts of York University and author of An Unnatural History of the Sea.

Event organiser Fran McIntyre said: "Great credit has to be given to Charles Clover for his decision to attend this seminar at Fishing 2010. I am confident that fishermen will welcome the opportunity to engage in lively debate on the vitally important issue of fisheries conservation." 

Fishing 2010 runs from 20 to 22 May at Glasgow’s SECC, with the breakfast seminar on the final day.

More information at www.fishingexpo.co.uk

 

Tapestry in the gardens

SIX students in their final year studying contemporary textiles at Shetland College are showing their work at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden, as part of Edinburgh University’s Green to Red exhibition for the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

Retired shoe shop owner and former crofter, 67 year old Joan Manson, aged 67, is exhibiting two paintings of bees taking nectar from flowers. “Pollinators are necessary for life, plant and food chain diversity. We as humans will not survive without them,” she explained.

The other exhibitors are Malcolm Stove, Jennifer Tait, Hilary Seatter, Angela Irvine and Marion Isa MacPhee.

Textiles on display include handmade lace, digital and hand screen prints with images inspired by visual research into Shetland’s ecosystems and shorelines through drawing, painting, photography and the use of pin hole cameras.

The exhibition in the Library Foyer, 20A Inverleith Row, is open from 10am to 4.30pm from Monday to Friday. It runs until May 27. Admission is free.

Isles stage international knitting conference

SOME of the world’s most influential knitters will descend on Shetland in September when the islands host a prestigious international conference on the craft.

The announcement that the second In The Loop conference will be held at Shetland Museum and Archives in September comes days before local councillors approve recommendations to scrap knitting as a primary school subject, after some described it as “a dying art”.

‘In The Loop 2: knitting origins and evolution’ is a five day interdisciplinary conference being hosted with the University of Southampton, who organised the successful first event in 2008.

It will focus on many aspects of knitting ranging from academic research to contemporary art practice, and the organisers hope it will “foster study and promote the revival of the craft”.

Southampton University’s Linda Newington said Shetland was chosen because it has played such a key role in the development of knitting.

“During the first In The Loop conference, Shetland just kept coming up in conversation.  The islands are so instrumental in the development of knitting we had to consider a second conference in Shetland,” she said.

Shetland museum’s knitwear curator Carol Christiansen added: “Knitters from all over the world will be in Shetland for the conference and I’m sure everyone will be excited to see the different techniques employed by different cultures.”

The conference runs from 1 to 5 September and will feature a wide range of speakers, knitting exhibitions and activities open to the public, including knitting lounges, book stalls and focus displays detailing both the Shetland and Southampton collections.

Speakers include www.knitonthenet.com editor and A Stitch In Time co-author Susan Crawford; Glasgow-based textile artist Deirdre Nelson (www.deirdre-nelson.com); and Norwegian textile designer and author Annemor Sundbø (www.annemor.com).

Dr Christiansen said: “As part of the conference we wanted to recognise the return of knitting as a social experience, where modern knitters gather in a variety of venues to share ideas, skills, experience and friendship.

“We expect a great deal of networking to take place between visiting and local delegates, creating a real buzz in the museum and archives.”

The final day of the conference will be an optional excursion to the Old Haa in Yell and the Unst Heritage Centre, where delegates will get the chance to see the fine lace for which Unst is famous, with demonstrations by local spinners and knitters.

The co-ordinating team said: “The aim of the conference is to raise the profile of knitting and to encourage further research, both academic and practical, using the collections as a foundation.

“We hope to uncover the social history, recognise the contribution of knitters, and explore the potential contemporary facets of ‘making’.

“We also want to investigate knitting cultures from other parts of the world, to provide a global perspective on how traditional knitting has influenced contemporary makers, artists, and researchers.”

The conference fee is £60, with an early bird booking fee of £45 available until 15 June.  Single day bookings are not available and there are additional fees for a conference dinner on the Friday night and the Unst excursion on the Sunday.

A full conference programme and online booking is available from Monday 17 May at www.soton.ac.uk/intheloop, which can be accessed at the museum and archives with the help of staff.

Low flying cuts out delays

AIR traffic controllers are allowing Scotland’s lifeline routes to the islands to avoid disruption being caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud by flying lower than usual.

On Monday flights to and from Shetland and other island airports were delayed to make way for an increased number of international flights flying over Scotland to avoid the volcanic ash clouds hovering over the north Atlantic.

On Tuesday new arrangements were put in place to allow island flights to operate at lower levels.

Transport minister Stewart Stevenson said: “The pragmatic approach now agreed with NATS and airline operators will help to minimise disruption and bring greater resilience to these critical services as we seek to respond to the continuing challenges caused by volcanic ash.”

The Met Office has indicated flight conditions should improve over the next few days, the situation remains volatile.

Travellers are advised to contact their airline before embarking on a trip.

Marathon effort from local lasses

TWO Shetland women joined 13,000 others who flocked to Glasgow’s south side for the 18th women’s marathon on Sunday.

While Kenyan 10,000 metre world champion Linet Masai set a new course record of 31:08, 33 year old Fiona Shearer crossed the finishing line 20 minutes later in 610th place.

Her 31 year old sister Stephanie Bain, who has only just taken up running, did well to complete the course in a commendable 1:04:31.

The sisters were running for the Breast Cancer Campaign charity, having lost their mother Kathleen Grant in 2006 to breast cancer. Kathleen was a keen sports person, and the sisters said they were proud to have run the marathon in her memory.

After the race, Fiona said: “It was amazing. I feel inspired, and it was emotional at times. The atmosphere was electric, everyone was very supportive.”

Stephanie added: “I really enjoyed the run and event as a whole, the crowd was fantastic at keeping me going when I needed it.  I’m looking forward to next year!”

So far the pair have raised about £500, but anyone still wishing to donate to Breast Cancer Campaign can email Stephanie on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Also running among the sea of women in the largest 10Km road race in the UK were Weisdale lasses Julie Kirkness (40) and Lynette Smith (34).

Alos new to the 10Km, Julie finished with a time of 51:26, finishing 688th , and 122nd of the 40-44 age group. Lynette completed the course under the hour, in 57:06.

Having raised almost £500 to date, these two were running in aid of Cancer Research UK, and to donate to their charity people can contact Julie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Best summer school ever

THOSE keen to learn more about the traditions and folklore of Orkney and Shetland have another chance to enrol on one or more of this year's summer schools hosted by the Centre of Nordic Studies.

Now in its third year, the summer school programme has been hailed as a resounding success.

Students are taken on week long courses in either Orkney or Shetland to gain in depth knowledge of cultural traditions, language, literature, history and landscape.

This summer students can choose from four different courses to experience a holiday with a difference.

The two Orkney summer schools 'Orkney Cultural Traditions and Folklore' and 'Orkney Writers and Landscape' both run from 28 June until 2 July.

The two Shetland schools 'Shetland Cultural Traditions and Folklore' and 'Shetland History and Landscape' run between 19 and 23 July.

Each day will start with a lecture at either Orkney College or the NAFC Marine Centre, in Scalloway, to be followed by field trips in the afternoon.

Participants will also be able to enjoy local traditional music events and music workshops.

After completing last year's summer school, student Cherry Macintyre from Fife summed it up as: "Expert lecturers and brilliant structure. Loved every minute."

Jane Blair MacMorran from East Tennessee State University said it was "the best summer school we have ever attended", while Anna Lipinska from Orkney vowed to be back again next time.

All summer schools are open to everyone, no prior knowledge is required. The cost is £200 per week, which includes field trips and evening activities.

Day rates are also available for Orkney and Shetland residents who want to pick and mix.

For more information and enrolment is available at www.nordic.ac.uk , or by writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling the Centre for Nordic Studies on 01856 569 300.