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Fishing skipper breathalysed in Sullom Voe

THE POLISH skipper of an Irish fishing boat was breathalysed by police in Shetland after his vessel grounded inside the oil port of Sullom Voe on Tuesday afternoon.

The Galway-registered An Capall Ban, with three Polish and two Indonesian crew on board, floated free of the Point of Sella Ness on the rising tide and was towed to the jetty by the Shetland Islands Council tug Solan, while two other vessels stood by.

The white fish boat was boarded by the harbour master and a safety officer while the hull was examined and found to be undamaged.

Local police officers detained the skipper and breathalysed him, but found he had not been drinking and the vessel was allowed to leave the port.

Harbourmaster Roger Moore said the An Capall Ban had been on guard duty for a large vessel off Shetland and had come in to Sullom Voe for a crew change.

Meanwhile Shetland registered fishing boat Valhalla lost its catch after having to buoy out its nets following a fire in the engine room 30 miles east of Lerwick.

The three man crew discovered the turbo charger in the auxiliary engine that ran the hydraulics had caught fire and they put it out with a portable extinguisher before contacting Shetland coastguard to warn them about the floating net. The boat returned safely to port later in the afternoon.

Shetland coastguard also had to alert their Noness rescue team after a member of the public phoned in about two large tanks that had washed into the Peerie Geo of Sandwick.

The tanks contained carbon dioxide and the council is being contacted to dispose of them safely.

 

Dental practice to close for one month

THE LERWICK dental practice at St Olaf Street will close for four weeks after principal dentist Alan Owen retires on Friday 2 September.

NHS Shetland, who will take over the running of the practice after Mr Owen failed to sell it as a private concern, said that they would use the time to carry out essential maintenance prior to reopening on Monday 3 October.

The NHS emergency treatment service is to be extended during that month to cater for extra demand from patients.

Emergency contact numbers are 01595 743160 from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 08454 242424 at all other times.

Patients due for routine treatment during September will be contacted after the practice reopens to rearrange their appointment.

Interim dental director Pippa Arbon said: “The transition arrangements mean we have had to plan to close the practice for a period of time. It is an ideal opportunity to carry out essential works, which means we will not have to do this at a later stage which would mean closing the practice again.”

All existing practice staff will join the NHS and continue working from the St Olaf Street premises.

Lerwick man on sex offenders' list

A LERWICK man has been placed on the sex offenders register after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a woman in the town.

At Lerwick Sheriff Court on Tuesday Darren Odie, aged 22, of 19 St Sunniva Street, admitted intentionally and recklessly touching the woman in a sexual manner at an address in the town’s Harbour Street on 29 March.

Sentence was deferred until 21 September for a social work report to be carried out and Odie was release on bail.

 

Mixed report for Mid Yell school

SHETLAND’S education department has pledged to work with the islands’ newest school to bring about improvements after a mixed report from inspectors.

Following a visit earlier this year, HMIe inspectors reported on Tuesday that Mid Yell junior high school needed additional support from the council.

Inspectors found pupils were not all achieving what they were capable of and their written work was “too variable in quality”.

Nursery children spent too little time playing outdoors, primary school teachers needed to plan courses better and secondary pupils were not being taught literacy and numeracy in a consistent fashion.

Inspectors also found that senior staff did not monitor learning effectively enough, making the learning experience “too variable”.

Mechanisms for learning from and improving exam performance were also inconsistent.

However special needs children were well supported and staff were described as “very caring”.

Inspectors identified several strengths, including the learning experience in nursery, well behaved and welcoming children, caring staff and good partnership working with other agencies.

However council staff will be working with the school to provide more consistent and challenging learning experiences, an improved curriculum and better monitoring.

Childrens services director Helen Budge said: “"We will work closely with the Mid Yell school community and HMIe to bring the quality of learning at Mid Yell junior high school up to the highest standards, which is what we demand from all our schools.

"We are working closely with staff at the school to deal with the issues raised by the report and to build upon the examples of positive practice in the school.”

The council this year voted to close neighbouring Burravoe primary school and send its pupils to Mid Yell, which was rebuilt and opened last year.

The Mid Yell HMIe report can be read at 

http://www.hmie.gov.uk/documents/inspection/Mid%20Yell%20JHS%20FINAL.html

Crewman comfortable after North Sea fall

Crewman from oil standby vessel Enea being stretchered to GBH. Pic. Craig SimTHREE crewmen from an oil standby vessel working in the North Sea were airlifted to Lerwick on Tuesday morning after falling into the water from a fast rescue craft, despite conditions being flat calm.

The trio were working on board the large platform supply vessel Enea at the Tern field, 100 miles north east of Shetland. One of them was initially said to be in a serious condition.

The men were recovered by their fellow crewmen, but doctors advised they be flown to Lerwick to be checked up by medical staff at Gilbert Bain Hospital.

Two crewmen were able to walk from the helicopter. Pic. Craig SimThe Tern platform crew contacted Shetland coastguard who launched the Sumburgh-based rescue helicopter, which flew to the field and winched the men aboard, arriving back at Lerwick about 11.15am.

Two of the men were able to walk to the waiting ambulance, while the third was conveyed on a stretcher.

A spokeswoman for the Gilbert Bain Hospital said on Tuesday afternoon that two of th men had been discharged again while the third man was in a comfortable condition in hospital.

Helicopter winchman Friedie Manson said: “We were tasked by Shetland coastguard this morning to go to the standby vessel Enea which works in the Tern field.

The Enea in Lerwick harbour, earlier this year - Photo: Scott Goudie“Three people had been in the water. One was quite serious, the other two were stable and walking. Our task was to go and collect them and bring them back to Shetland.”

The Tern field is operated by TAQA Bratani, the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company, who purchased the field as part of Shell’s North Sea assets in 2008.

The UK registered Enea is owned by Aberdeen-based Portosalvo Ltd, an Italian-owned company. It is one of the new generation of large platform supply vessels built one year ago in Norway with capacity for 26 crew.

Making a difference in Romania

Valerie Farnworth, Tracy Webb and Mark Wylie with some of the residents of Casa Sf. Patrick and Casa Irlanda - Photo: Shetland to Romania Orphanage Project 2011 EIGHT volunteers from the Shetland to Romania Orphanage Project 2011 have just returned home following what was described as a “very successful few weeks, touching the lives of many orphans living in Romania”.

The group, consisting of Amy Gair, Christine Jamieson, Sandra Strachan, Barry Derbyshire, Valerie Farnworth, Tracy Webb and project co-ordinators Mark and Jenny Wylie took almost £5,000 with them, which was all raised locally in Shetland.

The funds were divided between five orphanages in and around Brasov in the Transylvanian region of Romania where the volunteers were working.

The group spent the money on a range of items, including daily purchases of fresh fruit and water for the children – a luxury that they simply cannot afford – as well as resources for each orphanage.

They also purchased a TV, Wii games console and board games for the Foundation Dumbrava Minunata, a community centre for children that are currently living in foster care, but once were living in the large, institution-style orphanages of the past.

The other four orphanages, which are run by the Sunshine Foundation, were given gifts of a computer and printer, sports equipment, board games, arts and crafts equipment, CD players, giant beanbags and tables and benches for both indoors and outdoors.

Four of the volunteers spent an afternoon decorating the outside space of the Peter Pan Orphanage, with volunteers Amy Gair and Christine Jamieson recreating Disney characters in the playground, whilst Tracy Webb and Jenny Wylie, who are more artistically challenged, just about managed to paint a caterpillar and a large sun! This was achieved whilst the children were taken to a local play park by Mark Wylie and Valerie Farnworth, something they had never done before!

Volunteers, Valerie Farnworth, Christine Jamieson and Sandra Strachan painting t-shirts with children at the Peter Pan orphanage - Photo: Shetland to Romania Orphanage Project 2011As well as this, volunteers also did a wide range of activities with the children in their respective orphanages. These ranged from Mark and Sandra helping youngsters with their trampolining and gymnastic skills, with Sandra impressing everyone with her somersaults; T-shirt painting, dancing, face-painting (although one member of staff got a fright when she thought that Tracy’s face had been painted using permanent marker pens), drawing, playing catchy games like Duck Duck Goose, as well as different sports such as basketball, table tennis and tennis, accumulating in a sports day competition.

The group arranged a variety of day trips for the children. All of the children were given the opportunity to go swimming at the Paradisul Aqvatic complex and for many of them, this was the first time they had ever been swimming, and the volunteers took great pleasure in seeing them going into the pool for the first time, all kitted out in new rubber rings, new swim shorts and with beaming smiles!

Day trips were also organised for Brasov Castle, Mount Tampa (via cable car) and Adventureland, a tree-top adventure where the kids (and volunteers) had to make their way through a forest using only tree-top high wires, tricky crossings using ladders, walkways, bridges and tunnels made of wood, rope and wire, and zip lines. This was enjoyed by everyone who went, but particularly those who witnessed volunteer Barry Derbyshire demonstrating his inner Tarzan!

Towards the end of the two weeks, the director of the Sunshine Foundation approached us explaining that one of the boys had been given the opportunity to be fitted with a prosthetic arm and leg after he lost his when he was severely burned as a baby. The foundation had managed to secure funding for most of the expenses, however they asked us whether we would be willing to contribute towards the fuel costs of the four hour trip. The Shetland volunteers unanimously decided to donate the full cost of his travel expenses and they hope to be kept updated on his progress.

As well as buying a variety of resources for the orphanages, the volunteers were able to take out many items of make-up, clothing and toys donated by the Shetland public, art and craft materials donated by local artist Anne Barron, knitted blankets made by the residents of Taing House, handmade quilts donated by local business, Nimble Fingers, items from Relax Kids in Oxford as well as T-shirts, leotards, medals and wristbands donated by Scottish Gymnastics.

Project co-ordinator Mark Wylie said: “On behalf of all the volunteers who went out to Romania and worked so hard to make a difference to some of the children living in orphanages, we would like to thank everyone who contributed towards our trip and helped us to make such a difference.

“We would also like to make a special mention of Jenny Teale, our ninth volunteer, who worked so hard all year with the fundraising, but who unfortunately wasn’t able to come with us. She was a huge miss!

“We couldn’t have done this without the huge generosity of the Shetland community. With your support, we were able to spend important time playing and caring for the children, and were able to leave a lasting legacy with educational books, games and learning materials, and for little boy a life-changing experience. It was a truly memorable trip.”

Home coming for local captain

Capt Magnus Davidson in Lerwick on Sunday.From the high seas to home port – that’s the special voyage made over the weekend by Shetland-raised staff captain, Magnus Davidson, when the cruise ship Azamara Journey sailed into Lerwick Harbour on Sunday.

Brought up in Lerwick, Capt Davidson is second-in-command and head of the deck department on the vessel which carries almost 700 passengers and over 400 crew members.

The 30-year old now lives in Leith and visits Shetland annually - the last time in May this year.

The visit of the 181 metre long, 30,277 gross tonnes Azamara Journey on Sunday was her third to Lerwick, following previous calls in June 2009 and July 2010.

She was on route from Geiranger, Norway, to Akureyri, Iceland, as part of a 12-day cruise.

Mr Davidson said: “The visit to Lerwick is my highlight of the year for the special fact that it's the first time in nearly 15 years on cruise ships that I've had the chance to sail into my home town and have my family on board the ship. To see Shetland through the eyes of our guests makes me proud to be from here.

"It’s a shame we only had a six-hour visit this time before heading off towards Iceland - but it gave me the chance to have family on board for a long lunch and a look around the ship.”

He added: "During this voyage on the Azamara Journey, I've been to Monaco during the F1 Grand Prix, sailed through the Kiel Canal into the Baltic, visited the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and stayed overnight in Copenhagen during their Jazz Festival.

“Next trip, I'll head up the Amazon River in November, drift off Copacabana Beach at New Year for the fireworks, have a cruise down to Antarctica - and the South Shetland Isles - in mid January, and warm up in Rio de Janeiro for three days during the Carnival in February.”

In brief for 22 August 2011

Call for petrol prices to fall

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has said that the fall in oil prices to below $110 per barrel should at long last see petrol prices in Shetland coming down.

Hopes for a regime change in Libya and falling international demand means that crude oil is now 20 per cent lower than in April.

Mr Scott said: “Petrol prices in Shetland tend to only go up, but there can now be no justification for that.

“Unfortunately Shetland has only one company importing fuel – they charge what they want but there’s no doubt that Shetlanders pay the highest prices anywhere in the UK.

“But over the next few days there will be dramatic proof of the reality Islanders face. If prices fall, then at last we will benefit from the changes to worldwide prices. But if not, then it is blatant profiteering.”

 

Book of condolence to remain open until end of the week

The book of condolence for the people of Norway following last month’s atrocities will remain open until Friday 26 August.

A council spokesman said on Monday that anyone wishing to pass on messages of sympathy and support can sign the book in the Town Hall until 5pm on Friday.

The book is located inside the main door of the Town Hall and is available Monday to Friday during office hours.

 

Two identical cruise liners

Ocean Princess (berthed) and Azamara Journey - Photo: Austin Taylor
TWO identical cruise liners were in Lerwick harbour on Sunday. The 30,277 grt Ocean Princess (berthed) and Azamara Journey (at anchor) are both 181 metres long and can carry up to 690 passengers.

Cargo vessel under tow

THE NORWEGIAN owned cargo vessel Fenja, under tow by the emergency towing vessel Anglian Earl since Sunday night, is due to arrive in Lerwick harbour at around 9.30am on Monday morning.

Shetland Coastguard was alerted at 3am on Sunday morning that the 82 metre vessel with 11 crew on board had broken down with engine failure, around 50 miles northeast of Unst.

The Anglian Earl, anchored in Inganess Bay, in Orkney, was tasked and arrived at the scene on Sunday evening to take the Maltese registered ship under tow.

The crew had unsuccessfully tried to restart the engine. There were no oil installations in the vicinity of the drifting vessel.

A coastguard spokesman said on Monday that at a speed of between nine and ten knots the tow was making good progress.

 

In brief for 19 August 2011

Oil spill turned off

DIVERS working for the oil company Shell have turned off a valve of a pipeline which has been leaking oil into the North Sea.

The company estimates that at least 218 tonnes of oil have been released from the leak near the Gannet Alpha platform, 113 miles east of Aberdeen.

The next step will be to recover the estimated 660 tonnes of oil that still remain in the pipeline 91 metres below the surface, Shell said on Friday.

Scottish environment minister Richard Lochhead said: "It is clearly good news that Shell have managed to close the valves though the situation will need to be closely monitored over the next 24 hours to ensure this has been successful.

"In the meantime, our work to monitor the impact of the spill on our marine wildlife continues.”

Passenger numbers up

PASSENGER numbers at Sumburgh Airport have soared during July thanks to additional flights laid on to deal with the influx of Tall Ships visitors, but also thanks to increased offshore helicopter traffic.

Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) said this week that numbers were up 28.2 per cent compared to July last year.

Overall, the 10 HIAL airports in the region recorded a 5.8 per cent increase in passenger traffic.

HIAL managing director Inglis Lyon said: “This comes as a great boost to the Scottish tourism sector and the economy of the Highlands and Islands, showing that a further 7,034 passengers travelled through HIAL’s airports during July 2011 compared to this time last year.”


RBS must change its mind demands Carmichael

ORKNEY and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland to abandon plans that would see thousands of customers unable to use cash machines operated by other banks.

The bank confirmed earlier this week that existing customers with ‘basic’ accounts are set to lose access to all ATMs except those operated by RBS.

Opponents of this move have argued that the change will have a disproportionate impact on poorer customers. 

Mr Carmichael said: “RBS needs to understand that public money comes with a public obligation. Rural Scotland has a long tradition of banking with RBS. It also has a high proportion of people in part-time work and on low and fixed incomes.

‘These are the people for whom every penny matters, and the people who will be hit hardest by this arbitrary and discriminatory decision. RBS must change their mind”.


Football results

Shetland Chiropractic Reserve League

Delting B 0 – 2 Celtic B
Goals from Glen Henderson and Jamie Duffy sealed the win for the Hoops.

Ness Utd B 4 – 7 Whitedale B
In a thriller at Cunningsburgh, Ness had been 4-3 up with 20 minutes remaining with goals from Jamie Robertson (2), Sean Bell and Alwyn Flaws. Whitedale were too strong in the end and from a Ross Smith hat-trick, Matthew Williamson, Jamie Wilson, Jon Moncrieff and own goal came away with a win that edges them nearer the title.

Scalloway B 3 – 1 Mossbank FC
Scalloway get another three points as the season closes with goals from Gary Burns (2) and Keith Riley.

Spurs B 4 – 1 Whalsay B
The Milktops turn the heat near the top of the table with goals from Shane Jamieson, James MacDonald, Iain Goodlad and Gregg Sinclair. Whalsay scored through a Spurs own goal.

Yell 0 – 3 Unst
The El Classico of the North ended with Unst getting the win over archrivals Yell.

More councillors reported to Standards Commission

THE COMMISSION for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland has confirmed that they have received yet another complaint against a number of councillors relating to the controversial Viking Energy wind farm project.

The complaint, made by Billy Fox, chairman of the anti-Viking campaign group Sustainable Shetland, is understood to be against the nine councillors who voted to back the massive wind farm at a meeting of the full council on 14 December last year.

A separate complaint is said to have been made against councillor Allan Wishart who as Viking Energy Project co-ordinator issued a press release before the meeting allegedly criticising the council’s head of planning for his recommendation not to approve the proposal.

The council met on the 14 December to make its recommendation to the government’s Energy Consents Unit.

After several hours of presentations and a short discussion the wind farm project was supported by nine votes to three with one abstention.

Seven elected members refused to participate in the debate after declaring a conflict of interest due to councillors’ role as trustees of Shetland Charitable Trust, a 45 per cent shareholder in the project.

Immediately after the meeting Sustainable Shetland announced they would report those who had voted in favour of the project to the Standards Commission, because they had “acted as developer and not as planner”.

On Friday, Mr Fox confirmed that, “as chairman of Sustainable Shetland”, he had now submitted the complaint.

“This has been done with the greatest of regrets, but we feel we really have no other option,” he said, adding that this was the first complaint the group had ever made to the Standards Commission.

The nine councillors are: Convener Sandy Cluness, political leader Josie Simpson, Gussie Angus, Laura Baisley, Jim Budge, Addie Doull, Betty Fullerton, Robert Henderson and Rick Nickerson.

A spokeswoman for the Standards Commission said: “I can confirm that we have received a complaint against several Shetland Islands Councillors. The complaint relates to the proposed Viking Energy wind farm. I cannot confirm who the complainant is.”

In May this year, 14 members of Shetland Islands Council were reported to the Standards Commission by an anonymous complainer relating to the same meeting and also to a planning board meeting in February this year when an application for the converter station, which is part of the wind farm project, was approved.

 

Scalloway man charged with assault

A SCALLOWAY man was released on bail from Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday after he appeared from custody on a charge of assault.

Gordon Iain Keith, aged 42, of 16d Meadowfield Crescent, Scalloway, was charged with entering a neighbouring property uninvited on Wednesday, shouting, swearing and brandishing a screwdriver as well as punching a man on the head and spitting in his face.

He made no plea or declaration and agreed to the bail conditions that he does not approach his alleged victim or enter his property. He will reappear at court on 24 August.

 

Yell wind farm plans on display

THE PROPOSED wind farm for the south end of Yell, in Shetland, could be as large as 100 megawatts, it emerged on Thursday.

The subsidiary of German-owned renewable energy firm Enertrag are holding a public exhibition about the Beaw Field wind farm project in the Burravoe hall, on Thursday 1 September.

Members of the company’s project team, including newly appointed project manager Colin Dickie, will be in the local hall between 2 and 9pm to discuss the project.

Mr Dickie said the project had changed considerably since it had first been made public as a 65MW wind farm in October last year.

The company is now looking at erecting up to 17 turbines with each turbine up to 163 metres high, 18 metres taller than originally envisaged.

Mr Dickie said by that by increasing the height of the tower and the length of the blades of the turbines, the generation capacity of the wind farm could almost be doubled.

He added that the project was very much at “the early stages” with the company carrying out bird, hydrology, landscape and archaeological studies.

“We have got a tremendous response from local people in the surrounding area. The vast majority of people are very enthusiastic about the proposal.

“They see this as a good investment as there will be a lot of money coming into the area through the community fund,” he said.

The wind farm is planned on common grazing belonging to the locally owned Burravoe Estate. Around 60 crofters have shares in the common grazing.

The project will only go ahead if an inter-connector cable between Shetland and the Scottish mainland is built, which in turn depends on the outcome of the planning application for the controversial 457 MW Viking Energy wind farm.

Mr Dickie added: “We are keen to make sure that local people are kept fully informed throughout the process.  We are still at a very early stage and this is the first of a number of exhibitions, but we are keen to hear the views of the community from the outset.

“There are a number of issues where input from the community will be invaluable, not least around ensuring that the island benefits socially and economically from this investment, and we would urge everybody to come along and give us their thoughts.”

The exhibition will include details of the various environmental studies underway and will give an outline of possible timescales.

As well as the exhibition at Burravoe, Enertrag will have a stall at the Yell Show in East Yell Hall on Saturday 3 September.

Opinion: A do it yourself disaster

by Jonathan Wills

It's hard to imagine how much sillier this silliest of silly seasons could possibly get, but no doubt there are further delights in store.

One possibility is that the charitable trust really will vote to have a majority of “independent” trustees appointed by a rump of councillor trustees, rather than directly elected. How silly would that be? Remember where you heard it first…

I blame our parents for some of the silliness. For example, whenever people of my mother's generation saw a bossyboots being particularly biggity, they’d say: "Him? He's choost a peerie Hitler!" What an example they set for us baby boomers.
It's a slippery slope and a short step from that kind of sarcastic exaggeration to taking the mickey out of our great leader and helmsman, with a mock Hitler salute prompting the wildest outbreak of silliness among the Shetland chatterabilia since Captain Calamity declared independence.

All this silliness distracts attention from the political volcano simmering just below the surface. Shetland's financial crisis has little to do with government cuts, unpleasant as they are. It's mainly a do-it-yourself disaster. I hear the sound of bonxies coming home to roost.

The council has a "financial reserves policy" that says we must keep at least £250m in the kitty for a rainy day. This limit's already been broken by successive crises on the casino stock markets where your money's invested.

Even worse news is that the only reserves we can actually use to cover the council's habitual budget deficit are in the Sullom Voe Harbour Reserve Fund, established by the 1974 Zetland County Council Act.

These real reserves currently stand at about £51m, not the £250m we’re always hearing about. They amount to only a quarter of the current value of total “reserves”, which on 5 August was £198m, well below the £250m “floor”.

In other words, the spare cash for funding council deficits is only a fifth of what some of us were encouraged to think it was. At this rate, the £51m in the Reserve Fund could in theory cover two years' council deficits. But that’s not an option, because then there’d be nothing left in the Reserve Fund to cover its primary purpose - to meet any deficit on the Sullom Voe Harbour Account.

A deficit on that account is no longer a distant possibility. Nor would there be anything left to pay for the Reserve Fund's secondary purpose – making grants and loans to industry through the SIC’s Economic Development Unit.

The £51m remaining in the Reserve Fund may be expected to earn around £3.5m a year from interest and dividends. As and when stock markets recover, it could be a little more. But this is all we can spend without reducing the fund’s capital value and seeing its future income dwindle.

We can only afford to use part of the £3.5m to subsidise the council’s annual deficit, which is currently about £17m – assuming we can achieve our savings target of some £9m. So things are very tight indeed and there’s still a gaping hole in the numbers.

The truth about the size of our “rainy day nest egg” - and the restrictions on what we can do with the rest of the “reserves” - was brought home to councillors at a private seminar on 8 June. Quite why it was private, I don’t know. It was embarrassing for some people, of course, but it seemed to me that the public ought to know how deep a hole the Sandynistirs had dug for us over the years, and how many sandy passages they’d excavated beneath the counting house floor.

I suggested this knowledge might even make Da Man i’ Da Stritt sympathise more with the horrible decisions we councillors will shortly have to take. But, no, the press and public were excluded while we heard the extent of the crisis - and some sharp criticism of the political leadership’s unconventional treatment of the “reserves” since 2003.

A financial expert explained to us (and the auditors have recently confirmed it) that three quarters of the combined “reserves” are for purposes very precisely defined by the Local Government (Scotland) Act. We cannot and must not spend this cash on funding our annual deficits.

Almost half of the “reserves” money (45.5%) is in the Capital Fund which, by law, we can only use to build or buy assets (like the new Anderson High School, which the Capital Fund could pay for right now, strangely enough).

More than a quarter (28.7%) is in the Repairs and Renewals Fund which, equally unsurprisingly, is earmarked for repairing and renewing roads, buildings, vehicles and machinery, etc., not for subsidising a deficit habit.

When we invest these two funds to earn interest and dividends, we’re obliged to use the earnings for the same purposes, not to subsidise a deficit on the current account.

Anyone who asks about this central problem is met with leadership platitudes about markets rising as well as falling and the need to be patient and take a long term view, blah di blah... If you ask for details, or even a general outline, of what the leadership intends to do about the deficit, you get more platitudes and patronising, commonplace observations about there being “a lot of work to do”, followed by unsolicited tributes to officials who’re working very hard on solutions, as indeed they are, in the absence of any clear political direction.

What we’re all eager to hear are the leadership’s practical proposals, as elected politicians, for dealing with this unprecedented crisis. The lack of detail is becoming worrying.

How do they propose to protect the jobs and conditions of lower paid council employees who do some of the most essential work? What, exactly, will they cut back on? Visiting fortune tellers or vital public services? We have not yet been told.
As an opposition backbencher, excluded from the private deliberations of the movers and shakers, I have some suggestions of my own but am now reluctant to air them at the council’s infrequent meetings, lest I stir up a new manure storm, complete with allegations of civic etiquette breaches and banishment to internal exile apo’ Da Naughty Step.

As this miserable “summer” limps to its clammy close, all we can do is wait to see what plan the leadership cult will produce, and hope it makes enough sense for a majority of us to support it. As a displacement activity, the Elders and Betters have been in conclave with an academic astrologer at the Simpsonian Institution on Muckle Roe, peering into cracked crystal balls and stormy teacups to “imagine wir futures”. These will be bleak indeed if the Simpsonians don’t deal now with the rather more urgent financial puzzles they were elected, four years ago, to solve.

Perhaps as part of the solution, our leaders have suggested spending £200,000 on a house (I won’t say where) that might accommodate even more consultants and futurologists.

This is where the silly season started and it does indeed seem silly, when we’ve no cash to spare and are in the middle of a housing crisis that gets worse by the day.
But wait, the premises could yet come in handy - `as a workstation for the commissioners whom the Scottish Government will surely have to fly up to run the place, if the Simpsonians can’t balance the books.

As Tacitus didn’t quite say: Dispecta est et Thulensis imperator nudus.

In brief for 17 August 2011

Oil worker airlifted

The injured man was taken to the Gilbert Bain Hospital - Photo: Austin TaylorTHE BOND Jigsaw helicopter on Tuesday evening airlifted an injured oil worker from the Piper Bravo installation, 90 miles south east of Sumburgh, to Lerwick.

The medivac was co-ordinated by Aberdeen coastguard who requested Shetland’s assistance at around 6.35pm.

The helicopter landed at the Clickimin landing site at just before 8pm for the injured man to be transferred to the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

 

Sandwick school closes early

PUPILS at the Sandwick junior high school had an unexpected afternoon off on their first day back at school, after a contractor cut the mains water supply for much of the village.

Head teacher Stuart Clubb said he had no option but to send pupils home.

Scottish Water restored supplies later the same day after Sandwick had been without water for around two hours.

 

Salome at Garrison

ACCLAIMED choreographer Andy Howitt from Aberdeen is working with Shetland Youth Theatre on their latest innovative production, a stage version of Oscar Wilde’s classic Salome.

The company has set the action in a jazz club at the time of prohibition, with King Herod at the head of a mafia family.

Howitt, director of Aberdeen’s City Moves, has been devising the famous dance of the seven veils with local performer Harry Witham, who plays Salome, Herod’s step daughter who seeks the head of John the Baptist.

Twenty actors have spent the past month working on the production, which plays at Lerwick’s Garrison Theatre from 25 to 27 August, with £8 and £6 tickets available from Shetland Box Office on 01595 745555. The production is not suitable for primary age children.

Whales surround campaigners

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said they had encountered as many as 500 pilot whales in an area south of the Faroe Islands.

The group, controversial for its campaigning methods, is in the area to prevent the annual cull of hundreds of pilot whales.

Known as the Grind, the whales have been driven ashore on Faroese beaches for centuries to help feed the local population.

Environmentalists say the practise is outdated, unnecessarily cruel and should be stopped.

Two Sea Shepherd vessels, the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot, are in Faroese waters with the intention of disrupting the cull.

The organisation’s president Paul Watson said: “We are like aquatic shepherds guarding our flock. We need to keep them away from the vicious hooks and knives of the Faroese butchers.”

Campaigners said the pilot whales had come so close that they could be touched by the crew on board the vessels.

A spokesman said that Sea Shepherd had positioned their ships between the whales and Faroe and were ready to intervene with acoustic devices if necessary to persuade them to divert away from the islands’ shores.

American crewmember Crystal Galbraith said:  “I was amazed at how friendly they were, not afraid of us at all, and so intensely curious. How anyone could greet this friendliness with such horrific violence is unimaginable.”

 

Diabetes figures soaring

A DRAMATIC rise in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in Shetland is causing concern for highlands and islands Labour MSP David Stewart.

A 2005 report from the pharmaceutical industry (APBI) had predicted that the number of cases of diabetes in the NHS Shetland area would be 509 by 2013.

However, the latest annual Scottish Diabetes Survey indicated that figures had already soared to 958 last year.

The official estimate of those with diabetes in neighbouring Orkney is put even higher, at 1,374.

NHS Shetland said on Wednesday that the number of cases of diabetes in the isles was not entirely surprising as the APBI report had acknowledged that not all factors causing diabetes had been included in the study.

Consultant in public health medicine, Dr Sudan Laidlaw, said that 4.3 per cent of the population in Shetland had been diagnosed with diabetes, slightly lower than the national average of 4.6 per cent.

She said there were a number of reasons why the number of people suffer from diabetes, mainly type 2.

These include an aging population and the fact that people with diabetes live longer due to better treatment methods.

Dr Laidlaw said: “The services for people in Shetland who are diagnosed with diabetes include a very successful education programme aimed at helping to prevent the complications of diabetes.

“In Shetland we also have a number of initiatives aimed at maintain a healthy weight and increasing physical activity which can prevent Type 2 diabetes, including Counterweight in primary care; healthy weight programmes for children and families; and extensive work in schools around physical activity and healthy diet.”

Mr Stewart said: “If we want the NHS to be a 21st century leader in preventative service, then we must take co-operative action towards that goal.

“The public can expect quality advice on risks to health that certain conditions pose, quality care to enable self-management by those indentified with that condition, as well as the best possible information on how to minimise the risks at the outset”.

 

Charitable trust reform plans condemned

PROPOSALS for a revamped Shetland Charitable Trust (SCT) have been condemned as “completely undemocratic” and “an insult to the public”.

Reform plans, discussed during a private seminar of the trust on Wednesday morning, envisage a charitable trust made up of seven ex officio members from Shetland Islands Council whose first job it would be to select and appoint eight “independent” trustees.

The trust is under pressure from the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) to remove the current 91 per cent majority of council trustees from its board.

The recommendations, worked up by the trust’s governance review group, would achieve that aim, but fall “well short of the public’s expectations”, according to some critics.

Trustee Gary Robinson said after the meeting that the charitable trust was public body and that councillors should have the faith to let the public decide.

“I strongly believe in electing all the trustees, and I also would like to see a proper public consultation done,” he said.

Another trustee, who at this stage preferred to remain anonymous, said the proposals were “outrageous” and the consequences would be worse “than what we have at present”.

The private seminar also discussed proposals to set the number of trustees necessary to make decisions to six, or 40 per cent of its members.

The current trust with 23 members has a quorum of 12, or just over 50 per cent.

SCT chairman Bill Manson did not respond to a request for interview, but the trust issued a short statement after the meeting.

It said: “Trustees have today attended a seminar to discuss recommendations from the governance review group.

“Trustees had a constructive discussion at which a number of valuable points were raised. A full set of proposals will be presented to trustees in due course.”

Shetland Charitable Trust is due to meet on 8 September to discuss and decide on its future governance.

Hill faces trial after claim dismissed

Stuart HillSELF-styled independence campaigner Stuart Hill may appeal to a Scottish court after his claim that Scotland had no legal jurisdiction in Shetland was dismissed by the local sheriff.

The 68 year old, who has spent the past nine years researching Shetland’s constitutional history, refused to answer 12 motoring charges and two further charges of obstructing the police and will now go to trial in November.

Mr Hill, of Bard View, Ockraquoy, Cunningsburgh, was arrested twice in vans he claimed were consular vehicles for the island of Forvik, off Shetland, for which he claimed independence three years ago.

He is charged with driving defective vehicles without a licence, tax, insurance or an MOT in Lerwick on 15 June and 5 July this year.

The former blacksmith and keen sailor has long been looking for a forum to challenge the authorities over his assertion that Shetland was never formally handed over to Scotland or the UK.

He is also involved in a civil case against the Royal Bank of Scotland in the Court of Session over their rights to impose charges upon him.

On Wednesday at Lerwick Sheriff Court, Sheriff Graeme Napier spent almost two hours debating Shetland history with Mr Hill, despite describing the entire affair as “a pantomime”.

This followed a similar 90 minute session on Tuesday, prior to which Mr Hill was locked up for 20 minutes after he refused to answer the initial charges.

At the end of the hearing Sheriff Napier said that Mr Hill was “deluded” and “seriously misguided”, despite presenting a 71 page submission in support of his claim that the court had no jurisdiction in Shetland.

Dismissing his claim, the sheriff said: “Eloquent and as heavily researched as his submissions may be I consider that Mr Hill is deluded by a rather romantic and unrealistic view of the way the relationship between Scotland and Shetland developed from before, around the time of and after the time of the pawning of Shetland to the Scottish Crown in 1469.

“It seems to me that Mr Hill has seriously misguided himself as to the inferences to be drawn from the various historical events.”

Mr Hill requested leave to appeal the case, which the sheriff refused, saying he had “absolutely no doubt about the cogency of my decision”.

However Mr Hill continued to refuse to answer the original charges and a trial date was set for 16 November.

After the hearing Mr Hill said he was not surprised by the court’s decision and he would be considering whether he would appeal to a higher court.

“I don’t think that the sheriff was ever in a position to say that he had no jurisdiction. I can still apply for leave to appeal even though it’s not been granted here and as I recognise the jurisdiction of the court in Scotland I am quite happy to deal with them in Scotland.”

Urgent message from Shetland Islands Council

Sandwick Junior High School closing today

The Shetland Islands Council Children's Services has announced that Sandwick Junior High School is closing at 12.00 noon today.  The school currently has no mains water supply due to a fault thought to be affecting the wider Sandwick area.

Buses will be picking up children from the school at 12 noon. All parents are advised that they can also pick up children from the school from 12 noon.

 

In brief for 16 August 2011

Discount discussion

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott believes the Scottish government has taken on board the case to reinstate the Air Discount Scheme for non-domestic flyers after meeting finance secretary John Swinney on Tuesday.

Mr Scott said: “The Scottish government does accept that a very small amount of money is needed to give everyone in Shetland the ability to access 40 per cent reductions in air fares. 

“But small amounts to government are huge sums to local voluntary and charitable bodies. So again I have pressed the case to Scottish ministers. John Swinney, the finance minister, will listen to a reasonable argument.

“We hope that the cost of flying to essential events which benefit Shetland and the islands can be cut by a change in the Scottish government's position. That would be welcome and I believe that after today's discussion, that is more likely."

Broadband funding

NORTHERN isles MP Alistair Carmichael and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur have urged the Scottish government to match new funding for broadband to close the digital gap between the north of Scotland and the rest of the country.

Their comments came after UK culture secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that the UK government is to spend £530 million to support online services in areas where access to high speed broadband is restricted.

Scotland is in line to receive almost £69 million of this additional funding and the Scottish government will be responsible for the allocation of these new resources.

However Scottish infrastructure secretary Alex Neil said he was disappointed in the funding package, saying it would cost £300 million to deliver next generation broadband across the highlands and islands alone.

Mr Neil said he would be writing to the culture secretary looking for a more realistic deal for Scotland. 


Crewman airlifted

AN INJURED crewman from the tanker Navion Norvegia was airlifted to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary by the Shetland-based coastguard helicopter on Tuesday morning.

The 130,000 tonne tanker was off Sumburgh when the incident happened. The crewman was in need of medical attention after contact with chemicals.


Football results

County Shield quarter finals

Celtic 3 – 2 Scalloway

The league leaders progress to the semis thanks to goals from Jordan Webb and a Dominic Mann brace. Alan Davidson and Robert Garrick scored for Scalloway.

Spurs – Mossbank

Spurs went through to the semis after Mossbank pulled out of the competition.

Whalsay 4 -1 Thistle

Goals from Stuart Shearer (2), Erik Thomson and Colin Leask gave Whalsay a chance of getting to their fifth final this year. David Thomson scored for Thistle.

Whitedale 5 -1 Ness United

Whitedale appear to be finding their form again with another win.

Follow up famine fundraiser planned

Maggie Adamson, May Gair, Brian Nicolson & Arron Ryan at Sunday's charity concert - Photo: Dave HammondA FOLLOW up charity concert is being discussed after more than £1,200 was raised for the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) to help people suffering from the famine in East Africa from a Shetland Aid gig on Sunday afternoon.

Music promoters Jeff Merrifield and Brian Nicolson had joined forces to bring together a selection of bands and artists to present a five hour long charity concert in Room 16 at Lerwick’s Islesburgh Community Centre.

Between 70 and 100 people ignored the blazing sunshine outside and supported a concert described as “five solid hours of fabulous music”.

Performers included Donald Anderson and Alan McKay, Brian Nicholson and Da Hot Club da Fladdabister, the Sheila Henderson Group, Abominable Showmen and the Corby Boys, Norman Willmore, the Comet Conspiracy Girls, First Foot Soldiers and Organised Chaos.

Meanwhile Shetland drum combo Aestaewast headed by Joy Duncan brought Africa into the room with some formidable drumming, singing and dancing.

Organiser Jeff Merrifield said: “The term “organised chaos” summed it up. Brian and I were running around to make sure the members of a band were with us at required times, trying to form some sort of running order, and that equipment worked.

“But in the end it didn’t matter. This was a gig just to sit back and enjoy – five solid hours of fabulous music – and an audience that sat there and enjoyed anything we could put on for them.”

He added that there was already talk of a “better and bigger” charity gig at some stage in winter.

Hill handcuffed…then given a hearing

A SELF-styled Shetland independence campaigner found himself in the cells briefly on Tuesday after he challenged the jurisdiction of Lerwick Sheriff Court.

Stuart Hill, aged 68, of Bard View, Ocraquoy, Cunningsburgh, has been charged with 12 motoring offences on 15 June and 5 July while driving two separate vans in Lerwick, including having no insurance, tax, driving licence or MOT.

He also faces two charges of obstructing police officers by locking himself into his vans, which he claims are consular vehicles for the independent island of Forvik.

Mr Hill does not accept the Scottish courts have powers in Shetland, nor that he has to register his vehicles with the UK authorities and has therefore yet to make a plea.

His claim is based on the belief that Shetland was never legally handed over to Scotland and the UK and Scottish governments have therefore no authority here.

When he was called to the dock on Tuesday he initially refused to acknowledge that he was Stuart Alan Hill, describing himself as “Stuart, of the family Hill”.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said: “Can we just get to the point and stop this monkeying about. Is your name Stuart Hill?”

“I am a sovereign in my own right,” Mr Hill replied.

The sheriff then invited procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie to ask for a warrant for his arrest, which was granted and Mr Hill was taken to the cells saying he regarded himself as having been assaulted. A troop of around a dozen supporters filed out of the court.

However he only remained in the cells for 20 minutes before being called back to the court room, where the sheriff apologised for what he had said earlier.

“I think it is appropriate for me to apologise because I think I accused you of mucking about. I apologise for that, but I do think there is a pantomime going on,” Sheriff Napier said.

“It’s an important matter for you, I understand that. It is easier for all of us to deal with this in a civilised way.”

There followed a 90 minute debate between Mr Hill, Mr Mackenzie and the sheriff about the history of Shetland, the Viking invasion around 800, the pawning of the islands by the Danish crown in 1469 and the subsequent powers wielded over the islands by the Scottish and UK authorities, including its territorial waters.

Mr Hill initially claimed that it was up to the court to prove its jurisdiction over him, but when asked to cite an authority for this claim he referred to three US legal cases, suggesting they were universally applicable.

He then submitted an inch thick file to the court to back up his general claim, which the sheriff and the fiscal read and asked questions.

Mr Mackenzie said that Mr Hill had failed to recognise the importance of custom forming the basis of Scottish law and that neither Norway nor Denmark, or anyone else, had challenged the powers of Scotland in Shetland.

Mr Hill, who has lived in the islands for the past 10 years, said that people in Shetland had been too downtrodden to question the authority over them.

“It’s very apparent to anyone who comes here that Shetland people are very reluctant to stand up and challenge authority,” he said.

The case has been continued until 2pm on Wednesday when Sheriff Napier will make a ruling on Mr Hill’s claims.

Weisdale man on heroin charges

A SHETLAND man has been released on bail after being charged following the seizure of a large quantity of heroin on Monday.

Thirty year old Peter John Henderson, of Weisdale, appeared from custody in private at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Tuesday.

He was charged with contravening the Misuse of Drugs Act, made no plea or declaration and committed for further examination.

Henderson was arrested at the Holmsgarth ferry terminal, in Lerwick, after being stopped and searched by police. They said they found him in possession of heroin with a potential street value of £3,500.

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