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School budgets being hit by Skerries decision

EVERY school in Shetland is being asked to cut its spending on learning equipment by £21 per pupil to pay for keeping Skerries secondary department open.

Letters went out to schools throughout the isles at the end of the April after the move was discussed with head teachers at a meeting in March.

Shetland Islands Council had hoped to save £70,000 by closing the smallest secondary department in Scotland, but councillors voted to keep it open to protect the tiny island’s economy.

Members were told last December that if they voted to keep the school open, every school would have to find savings of £21 per pupil. Hardest hit will be 750 pupil Anderson High School, which will have to cut £15,750 from its budget.

One teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the move as “nasty”, saying that children were being penalised because people had supported other communities.

SIC head of schools Helen Budge said councillors were well aware of the financial consequences of the decision to keep Skerries open.

Letters have gone out now as this is the time schools buy learning materials for the next school year, she said, adding that schools would be able to move money from other parts of their budget to meet the savings target if they chose.

Next Tuesday councillors will be deciding whether to close four primary schools at Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe and Sandness.

The following week they will debate a notice of motion to delay the closure of Scalloway school until the new Anderson High School is built.

If those closures do not go through the council will have to find almost £1 million from elsewhere in the schools budget, unless there is a change of policy.

Mrs Budge said: “I have always said that my understanding was that money would have to come from the schools budget because there’s never been any indication that money would be found from anywhere else.

“Some schools are obviously finding it difficult to find that level of savings. We are in a difficult financial position, but schools can take the money from other budgets if they wish.

“For many years head teachers have suggested areas where money could be saved, such as with the knitting instructors.

“We have really had to cut back on the schools budget for the past five years and it’s getting more difficult.”

One secondary head teacher said on Thursday that she wanted to minimise the impact of savings on children. “At this stage I am just thinking through how I am going to manage that,” she said.

She added that she was concerned about what councillors would do next. If Scalloway is kept open, it will cost £212 per pupil or the loss of 15 teaching jobs to meet the £700,000 savings it would make.

Scalloway parents council has backed the councillors who have called for their secondary department to be kept open until a new secondary school is built in Lerwick.

If the notice of motion fails then the first pupils in the second year will transfer to Lerwick on 1 June.

The savings at Uyeasound primary will be £96,692 (£29.21 per pupil); Burravoe will be £58,397 (£17.64); North Roe will be £46,702 (£14.11); and Sandness £54,904 (£16.59).


Local pool team do well at European Masters

THE SHETLAND pool team have just returned from a marathon week representing the Isles at the EBA European Masters competition of 2011.  Competing in the men and women A team sections against the leviathans of Scotland, England, South and Northern Ireland, Wales and Gibraltar, both teams finished in the most respectable of places given the might of their opponents. 

After an intensive six days of back to back pool playing, the men’s team came in 5th place overall out of 7 teams, beating Gibraltar and Southern Ireland.  The women’s team came in 5th overall out of 6 teams, beating Gibraltar.
Men’s A Teams

Position Team Points
1 Scotland 12
2 England 10
3 Wales 8
4 Northern Ireland 6
5 Shetland 4
6 Gibraltar 2
7 Southern Ireland 0


Women’s A Teams

Position Team Points
1 Scotland 16
2 England 14
3 Wales 12
4 Northern Ireland 6
5 Shetland 6
6 Gibraltar 0


A spokesperson for the teams said that the Shetland teams played first class pool; it was only unfortunate that on several occasions they were just pipped to the post for success against teams like England and Wales and the quality of the games played is not conveyed in the final results. 

The women’s team in particular had some frustratingly close session results, 12-9 to Wales and 11-10 to England amongst the near-wins.  The men’s team had one leg sewn up 11-0 to England but the match ended 22-11 in England’s favour.  All testament however to the potential in the Shetland teams.

Shetland first started attending in 1999 and have dramatically improved their skills and expertise as a result, and can now present themselves as contenders at an international level.

Youth and Juniors training starts on Saturday in the Norscot from 2pm – 4pm and anyone with an interest is encouraged to come and give it a go, an excellent opportunity which may lead to a chance at playing at an international level in the future. 

The Shetland Pool Association can be found at 

Tavish holds Shetland

Tavish winning his fourth Scottish Parliament election - Photo Malcolm YoungerSCOTTISH Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott had his overwhelming domination of the Shetland constituency severely dented during Thursday's Scottish elections, when his majority fell by 20 per cent.

During a disastrous night for the party nationally, which they are blaming on the UK coalition government, some party members were suggesting that Shetland and Orkney could be the only constituencies the party holds in this Parliament.

Independent candidate Billy Fox, who won 30 per cent of the vote, said that he hoped Thursday night's results reflected a change in island politics and it was time to move on from the legacy of Jo Grimond.


SNP candidate Jean Urquhart, from Ullapool, who flew into the islands just three weeks ago came third, saying she was thrilled her party had done so well in the regional vote in Shetland coming just 10 per cent behind the Liberal Democrats.

Labour's Jamie Kerr held his party's share of the vote from 2007, when it did not do well. However he said the energetic campaign had given his party a boost in the islands.


Tory candidate Sandy Cross was the most disappointed man on the night, losing his deposit with just 3.5 per cent of the vote, the first time in living memory the Conservatives have done so poorly in the islands which they represented at Westminster 60 years ago.

The results came out around 3.30am and showed that the turnout was down to 53.9 per cent, from 57.1 per cent four years ago. This caused much surprise, as it had been expected that Mr Fox's candidacy would have increased voting numbers.

Tavish speech after declarationIn 2007 Mr Scott, who had been serving in government as transport minister and delivered the extremely popular Air Discount Scheme, achieved one of the biggest ever island majority with 67 per cent.


On Thursday this was reduced to 47.5 per cent, with the blame being laid squarely at the door of the UK coalition, though Mr Scott promised that his party would recover from the crisis.

"I think national factors had an impact on my share of the vote, but my share of the vote is still above what I got in 2003. I am very pleased about that and I am very pleased about the way we fought the campaign. I don't think we have a lot to apologise about.

"I also came under attack from the other candidates. They appeared to me to hunt as a pack and I think that was evident from the hustings. I am glad that we withstood that and ultimately prevailed."

The most vocal support during the campaign was behind Billy Fox, with many believing that he could actually take the seat.

Mr Fox said that he believed his campaign had made a difference. "For an independent candidate to come such a credible second against the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the safest seat in Scotland must send out a message that there's a mood for change in Shetland."

The other parties said that Mr Fox had been the major cause for their poor performance.

Mrs Urquhart left the Clickimin Leisure Complex a happy woman with her party's performance nationally and regionally.

"We are winning across Scotland and I am thrilled about that. Shetland was an unusual election with the advent of an independent taking so many votes from all of us, but one day Shetland will see the light."

Mr Kerr said the Labour vote could have been a lot worse. "People commented on how energetic the campaign was and there's obviously dissatisfaction with the coalition government. That vote moved away from Tavish and unfortunately it's gone to Billy and not the Labour Party."

He added that he did not think the support for Mr Fox represented the level of opposition to the wind farm.

This view was not shared by Mr Cross, who said that many Tory supporters did not want to see a wind farm built in Shetland and had supported the independent.

"I think the wind farm issue has split the Tory vote. I have enjoyed the campaign and I hope that my party in it has contributed to the overall political discussion in the islands and everyone has been very friendly. But I am disappointed."


In the regional elections the SNP did extremely well, coming less than 300 votes behind the Liberal Democrats. The Scottish Green Party came third.

Constituency results:
Sandy Cross, Conservative 330 (3.5%)
Billy Fox, independent 2,845 (30%)
Jamie Kerr, Labour 620 (6.6%)
Tavish Scott, Liberal Democrat 4,462 (47.5%)
Jean Urquhart, SNP 1,134 (12%)

For full results of how Shetland voted as part of the Highlands and Islands regional list, please click here. Declaration of Highlands and islands list MSP sare expected later on Friday afternoon.

Photos: Tavish Scott winning his fourth election to the Scottish Parliament in the early hours of Friday - Photos: Malcolm Younger, Millgaet Media

Boy racer claims he’s changed his ways

A REFORMED boy racer was fined £650 at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday after he admitted careless driving and speeding.

The court heard that 19 year old Thomas Currie, of Stennestwatt, Walls, had accelerated harshly from a standing start while another car was trying to overtake him on Lerwick’s King Harald Street, on 31 August last year.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said that Currie had waited until the car was abreast of him before hitting the accelerator.

He added: “The accused could be described as of the boy racer fraternity and his driving manner is of that type. The concept of smooth and progressive driving is one that would be alien to him.”

However defence agent Tommy Allan claimed that Currie had changed his ways, swapping his souped-up Ford Focus for a fuel efficient VW Bora that he now used to drive to his new job as a landscape gardener in Burra. “He would have it that he has put his boy racer days behind him,” he said.

Mr Allan said that there was no intention to race the other driver, but he accepted he had driven off without looking behind him.

He also said he was in a hurry at 11.45pm on 16 October last year when he drove at 51mph in a 30mph zone on Lerwick’s South Lochside.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said he would give Currie a chance to prove he had changed, giving him nine penalty points and fining him £450 for the careless driving and £200 for speeding.



Teenager assaulted love rival

A SHETLAND teenager who beat up a love rival and struggled with staff after being asked to leave the local Tesco supermarket has been warned that he is in danger of becoming a regular at Lerwick Sheriff Court.

Shaun Smith, of 12 Ladies Drive, Lerwick, admitted assaulting a young man in front of passers by on the town’s Commercial Street last summer.

The court heard that the 17 year old, who is unemployed, had returned to the islands after a period staying with relatives near Aberdeen only to find his girlfriend had taken up with someone else.

When he saw the man in question on 2 July he “went for him”, punching him to the ground and kicking him in the body.

The man was taken to hospital for treatment to cuts and bruises on his head, including “a nasty cut” on the back of his head which required two stitches.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly said Smith accepted his behaviour was “unacceptable and disgusting”, but said he had received text messages that had taunted him about the loss of his girlfriend.

Mr Kelly added that Smith had taken umbrage when he and his father were asked to leave Tesco on 30 August, and he admitted causing a breach of the peace by shouting, swearing, uttering threats and struggling with staff.

Sheriff Graeme Napier warned Smith that he was in danger of becoming a regular customer of the court, and deferred sentence for reports saying that he thought he was in need of some intervention.



In brief for 5 May 2011

Speeding in Tingwall

A TWENTY one year old man is to be reported to the procurator fiscal in Shetland for speeding and dangerous driving after being caught doing 57mph in a 30mph zone.

Police in the isles said they had carried out “proactive speed checks” at Veensgarth, in Tingwall, on Tuesday morning, when a number of other drivers were also found be breaking the speed limit.

A spokesman said: “It is disappointing to note that after numerous warnings from the police regarding road traffic matters including speeding, drivers still continue to drive at excessive speed on Shetland roads.

“We would again like to take this opportunity to advise motorists that statistics show that accidents are more likely to occur on rural roads and as such they should drive at appropriate speeds taking into consideration the weather and other contributing factors.”

Anti drugs video concert

AROUND 400 primary school pupils aged 10 and 11 from across Shetland gathered at the Clickimin Leisure Complex on Thursday morning for the annual Choices for Life event.

Choices for Life, organised by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA) and supported by Northern Constabulary, provides young people with information and advice on substance misuse.

The event delivers live music and drama via video link and provides young people with guidance on how to resist peer pressure relating to tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.

Performers at this year's events include the MacDonald Brothers singer and songwriter Carrie Mac, up and coming boy band GMD3 and London-based rap act, MC Enel. PACE Theatre Group is delivering a drama sketch during the live event.

Detective superintendent Alan Cunningham, head of investigation services, SCDEA said: "The aim is to give young people the facts so that they have the knowledge and confidence to make the right decisions.”


Factory worker fined for Christmas break in

A FISH factory worker from Unst who broke into a house in the early hours of Christmas morning last year after a day of heavy drinking was fined at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

The court heard that 20 year old Stephen Henderson, 6 Nikkavord Lea, Baltasound, of  had been trapped in Lerwick by the snow and spent the whole of Christmas Eve in various town pubs.

He was very drunk by 3am when he knocked on the door of a house in Clairmont Place where a woman was preparing for her children’s Christmas. She answered the door and he asked to come in for a chat, but she declined.

He then went next door, hammered on the door and broke the lock. He then entered the house where he was later found by police looking through CDs in a bedroom and unable to explain himself.

The court was told Henderson had been drinking with the householder that day, but he was not welcome at the house.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said there was concern about the young man’s drinking and that he had a previous conviction for stealing a significant quantity of spirits and burying them in his back garden.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said his client had steadied his lifestyle after finding regular employment on Yell and had offered to pay for the damage to the door.

Henderson admitted malicious damage and was fined £675. He was also ordered to pay £125 compensation.



Healthy start for new credit union

Credit_Union_committeeSHETLAND Islands Credit Union is looking for new volunteers after a promising start last weekend when 33 new members signed up and deposited several thousand pounds in saving accounts in the first few hours of trading.

The new credit union opened its doors at 8 Hillhead, in Lerwick, for the first time at 10.30am on Saturday.

A spokesman said some new members had previously been in credit unions elsewhere and were pleased to have this opportunity in Shetland.

It has taken the  steering group several years to set up the organisation, mainly due to the painstaking process of evaluation by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Run entirely by volunteers, the office is open twice a week, on Wednesdays between 5.30 and 7pm, and on Saturdays between 10.30am and 1pm.

Chairman Gordon Mitchell said the credit union had received enthusiastic local support and would “bring many benefits to local people and the local community”.

Director Maurice Mullay added: "The level of enthusiasm for a local credit union has been heartening and the people we have seen at the weekend have been particularly enthusiastic for the convenient savings and low cost loan arrangements.

“This is a safe and secure environment for savings which are protected by the Financial Services Authority and members will receive a share of profits. Members will be dealing with friendly local people who understand local circumstances; no call centres or language difficulties.

“If anyone is interested in the services and benefits of a credit union or to have a secure local depository for savings, we will be delighted to meet and discuss how Shetland Islands Credit Union can be of service.”

The organisation is also looking for volunteers to offer a range of services and extend the current limited opening hours.

Anyone with a few hours available is invited to join the credit union team to benefit the local community. Training is provided for what can be a rewarding position and a valuable credit on a CV, Mr Mullay added.

Shetland Islands Credit Union is also online at from where a membership application form can be downloaded.

Photo: Some of the board members at the opening of Shetland Islands Credit Union; back row (left to right): Maurice Mullay, Tom Stove, Wendy Hand, John Hunter, Steven Coutts and Jeff Goddard. Front row: Charles Christie-Henry, Trevor Tindall, Capt. Gordon Mitchell.

SIC/Total deal made public

FRENCH oil and gas company Total is to pay £550,000 in rent each year to Shetland Islands Council on top of a throughput levy for all the gas flowing through its new plant being built at Sullom Voe.

Until production starts at the £500 million plant in 2014, Total are only paying £100,000 ground rent for the 112 acre site next to the existing oil terminal operated by BP.

The 150 page lease agreement was made public on Wednesday after being settled in March last year after intense negotiations.

Total have never signed such an agreement before, but were desperate to get on with building the plant which will unlock the huge gas fields at Laggan/Tormore and elsewhere west of Shetland.

Work has already commenced laying the pipelines and preparing the foundations for the site, which includes the removal of 650,000 cubic metres of peat that will have to be reinstated once production stops as part of the deal.

The council has estimated the development will pump £200 million into the local economy over the next 30 years. Around 800 construction jobs will be created in the isles.

Every quarter the authority will receive a rent cheque and after 2014 it will also receive a share of the cash generated from the gas production itself.

The council has been given the power to check how much gas is being produced and will have oversight of environmental and health and safety matters. Laggan/Tormore is expected to produce 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day at its peak.

Work on laying the 90 mile pipeline westwards for the £2.5 billion development began last month, with a further pipeline to be laid eastwards that will take the gas to the UK mainland.


SIC backs western isles coastguard initiative

SHETLAND Islands Council has restated its view that retaining just one full time coastguard station in Scotland would put lives at risk and leave island communities vulnerable to communication failures.

As the consultation on changes to the UK’s coastguard service closes on Thursday, the SIC is submitting a 280 page document that says the proposed centralisation is a recipe for disaster.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency wants just one full time coastguard station in Scotland, supported by one daylight only station in Lerwick or Stornoway.

The council’s submission states: "Bitter experience has shown that centralised call centres do not deliver the best service and have, at times, placed individuals in greater harm.

“The ‘NHS 24’ call centre has regularly tasked medical response to the wrong settlements of similar names and occasionally to the wrong island groups.

“The ‘FiReControl’ system for England and Wales, which effectively proposed centralised call centres, has cost the public purse £435 million, with ongoing costs even though the system has now been scrapped.”

It adds that the removal of 22 experienced coastguard officers from Shetland would reduce resilience for the isles.

“It would leave the islands particularly vulnerable to communications failures between here and the mainland. The current system has in-built hard-wired resilience that allows the coastguard station to operate even when links to the mainland are severed.

“Under the current proposals, a loss of communications between Shetland and the mainland would leave the volunteers with only handheld radios and binoculars to respond to any incident within the area."

While opposing the proposed changes, many in the community, including coastguard officers, recognise there is scope for the coastguard service to be improved.

This “constructive attitude” was already acknowledged by senior coastguard managers when they visited Shetland and the western isles in February this year.

On Wednesday, council convener Sandy Cluness gave his support to plans from The Outer Hebrides Coastguard Task Group (OHCTG), which includes Western Isles Council, for keeping three coastguard centres in Scotland open.

These proposals are for a 12 centre model across the UK, including six stations for England, two in Wales, one in Northern Ireland and three in Scotland.

Linking Stornoway, Lerwick and Aberdeen would create a Scottish 'tri-service' centre, increasing the resilience of each centre.

Under the proposals, Stornoway would have primary responsibility for the west coast, Aberdeen for the east coast and Shetland the north coast.

Mr Cluness said: "It is vital that the councils act together on this. We must not be divided. I fully support the initiative from the western isles for a three-centre model in Scotland.

“I would like to pay tribute to our hard working team in Shetland for putting together a full and comprehensive response for the consultation. One which makes clear that losing the coastguard station, and indeed threatening the provision of emergency tugs, will put shipping at risk and could cost lives."

A representative of the SIC will travel to Stornoway on 19 May to give evidence to members of the UK government’s transport select committee, which is meeting there to consider the coastguard closure proposals.

The whole document can be found here.


Crofter fined for cruelty, but can still keep sheep

A SHETLAND crofter was fined £5,400 for causing unnecessary suffering to his flock, but avoided being banned from keeping sheep when he appeared for sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Laurence Johnson, of Windhouse Farm, Mid Yell, admitted not looking after his animals after an SSPCA officer found nine ewes and one ram close to death in a park near his house on 12 January last year, along with several unburied carcasses.

The 52 year old had told the court that he had been suffering from a vomiting bug at the time and been unable to get out to his animals.

Last year the court ordered him to institute a monitoring and inspection regime for his 1,800 sheep that earn him a pre-tax profit of around £40,000 a year.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said that the vet had reported he was doing all that could be reasonably expected of him, but  would not accept any reduction in this standard of welfare.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said that the crofter’s income had been hit by the bills for the vet’s monthly inspections.

Sheriff Graeme Napier said that Johnson had kept his side of the bargain and he would not disqualify him from keeping livestock. He has been allowed to pay his £5,400 fine at £250 a month.


Sheriff worried by drink driving levels

SHERIFF Graeme Napier warned drivers in Shetland that if they are caught behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol they could face jail, after dealing with a spate of such offences in Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday.

Marina Sinclair, of 4 Toabsgeo, Virkie, could be sent to prison after crashing into an oncoming car on Christmas Eve last year having drunk a whole bottle of vodka.

The 55 year old admitted driving dangerously and being more than twice the legal limit when she drove at excessive speed on the main A970 road between Dunrossness and Sumburgh around 8.30pm on 24 December.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said the weather was poor, the road was covered in snow and she was unable to control her car.

“She told police she had been up all night and had consumed as much as a bottle of vodka and expressed the desire to go to prison,” Mr Mackenzie said. “She is clearly someone with a severe alcohol problem if not dependency.”

Sheriff Napier deferred sentence for reports, but said that custody was at the forefront of his mind as she had a previous conviction for drink driving from four years ago.

Scott McCulloch, of Flat 3, 2 Mill Lane, Lerwick, was also warned he could face jail after pleading guilty to drink driving in a works van around north Lerwick on 24 April while three and a half times the legal limit.

The court heard that the 37 year old scaffolder, who has four childen, had been convicted of drink driving 18 months ago and only received his licence back last August. Sentence was deferred for reports, after the sheriff said McCulloch was “a significant danger to the public”.

Another warning was handed to 67 year old crofter John Wishart, of Kirkabister, Brettabister, North Nesting, who was almost three times the limit when he was arrested at his home on 16 April.

Wishart admitted drink driving at Skellister and refusing to be breathalysed, but defence agent Tommy Allan said that he had set up a series of alcohol counselling sessions since his arrest.

The court heard that he had alarmed folk at the Nesting shop when he purchased a bottle of whisky and drove off in his car though he was unsteady on his feet.

Mr Allan said Wishart had been up all night with the lambing, but accepted that he had “a major problem with alcohol”.

Sheriff Napier said that as he had a previous conviction for drink driving it was quite possible he too could go to jail, but deferred sentence for reports until 1 June, when he will also decide whether to forfeit Wishart’s £4,600 car.

Disqualifying all three for the time being, Sheriff Napier said: “I thought the message was getting through to the citizens of Shetland that you can’t get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol. That message clearly has not got across and when that happens the message has to be made by example.”

Three other first time drink drivers appeared in court on Wednesday. Chef Jason Webb, aged 39, of 7 Grindibrek, Skeld, admitted being just over the limit while driving on King Harald Street on 18 December last year after accepting too much hospitality while delivering Christmas presents to friends. He was fined £500 and banned from driving for 12 months.

Retired businessman Laurence Dalziel, aged 62, of Windy Knowe, Shurton Brae, was fined £700 and banned for two years after pleading guilty to being two and a half times the limit after crashing his car in the snow on the B9074 Tingwall to Scalloway road mid morning on 23 December last year.

And 41 year old Irish construction worker Tomas Smith, lodging at Hillside House, Scalloway, admitted being one and a half times the limit on the same road on 21 August last year. The father of six was fined £900 and banned for 15 months.


Hockey: Spurs trounce Delting


Scalloway  0 v Zetland 3

A NINE strong Scalloway team missing several key players gave it all they had and were soon putting pressure on the Zetland defence, who held strong. Scalloway’s early attempts at goal went wide or were cleared.

Zetland pushed back with strong accurate passing, but Scalloway also put up a good defence with Lara Kay, Julie Brown and Anne-Marie Robinson working well together.

Not long into the second half Zetland opened the scoring with a goal from Erica Mikolajczak soon followed by a second from Maisie Unsworth.

A tiring Scalloway won a penalty corner, but Zetland cleared it and piled on the pressure, which was rewarded when Eildh Couli managed to slot the ball home off a rebound. Scalloway never gave up but failed to score.

Players of the match were Scalloway’s Kerri Redfern and Zetland’s Hanna Irvine.

Spurs 3 v Delting 0

A more confident and relaxed Spurs quickly settled after winning the toss, their midfield spreading balls well and the defence standing up to Deltinmg’s counter attacks.

Sarah Grogan scored first after a one two with Fiona Shearer. After a couple of substitutions, Shearer started a move involving Emma Gray, fresh off the bench, who passed to Grogan to make it her second of the night.

Delting came out fighting in the second half and won a penalty when Lorraine Duncan brought down Elaine Smith, but the north team failed to convert their opportunity.

As the game settled down saw both sides play well. Shearer was replaced by striker Karen McKay who tapped in a third for Spurs from close range after a smart attacking move.

Delting’s player of the match was Nicola Blance, while Andrea Tait stood out for Spurs.

Zetland 0 v Delting 1

No match report received.

Burra 4 v Scalloway 1

Burra started out strong and were quick to score after Karen McKelvie set up Stacey Laurenson to get round a quick Scalloway defence.

Scalloway found their feet but could not get past Sarah Couper in goal, and when Burra won a few short corners both Laurenson and Kristan Robertson managed to score.

Scalloway started to apply more pressure in the second half and earned a goal from Kate Moncrieff for their efforts, but Bethany Laurenson settled the result with a smash to make it 4-1.


Points Won Drawn Lost Pts


4 3 0 1 9


2 2 0 0 6


3 2 0 1 6


3 2 0 1 6


3 1 0 2 3


2 0 0 2 0


3 0 0 3 0


Monday 9 May - Rosebowl
6:30pm Scalloway v Spurs  (Simon Skinner/Burra rep)
7:50pm Delting v Burra  (Simon Skinner/Spurs rep)

Thursday 12 May - Rosebowl
6.30pm Juniors  Zetland  (Janice Johnston/Scalloway rep)

In brief for 3 May 2011

Sentence deferred

THE SENTENCING of almost 20 pelagic fishermen convicted of illegally landing mackerel and herring worth millions of pounds has been deferred again pending a legal debate later this month.

The High Court in Glasgow has set aside four days between 31 May and 4 June for a “diet of debate” with regards to confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime (Scotland) Act.

In autumn last year, and in February this year, a total of 17 skippers and relief skippers from Shetland and Fraserburgh admitted making false declarations.

Local fish processor Shetland Catch pled guilty to assisting the skippers in making undeclared landings last August.

Senseless vandalism

SHETLAND police are seeking information about “senseless vandalism” in the isles over the last few days.

Between last Thursday and Monday windows at Lerwick’s Montfield Hospital were damaged.

Between Friday and Monday extensive damage was caused to the public toilets by Meal beach, at Hamnavoe, in Burra.

A police spokesman said the beach would have been busy over the weekend and asked anyone who witnessed anything suspicious to contact Lerwick police station on 01595 692110

“Both premises which suffered the damage offer facilities and services to the Shetland communities and targeting them ultimately only harms the communities themselves,” he said.

Museum plans on hold

PLANS to build an agricultural museum and heritage centre for Shetland in Tingwall have been put on hold for a year.

The committee behind the £1.3 million project have been knocked by the Scottish government rural development programme, the Big Lottery and the Heritage Lottery.

Shetland funding bodies said that no large sums of money would be available for the project.

Chairman Drew Anderson said the committee felt they could not just walk away from the project after all the public support they had received, so they had decided to lie fallow for 12 months to see if the financial climate improved.

“It is extremely disappointing for us as a committee to be forced into this situation, as we feel our project has received a very high level of support from all over Shetland, he said.

“We would ask anyone who has any ideas on how we can lay our hands on large sums of money to please get in touch.”

The project can be followed at

Rural Priorities alarm

NFU SCOTLAND is seeking early talks with the next Scottish government over delays to the Rural Priorities grant scheme, which will only consider environmental projects.

The government has said applications must be submitted by 15 June, but they will not be considered until September.

NFUS head of rural policy Jonnie hall said this threw into doubt further rounds for business development and rural enterprise and communities

“We cannot assume that there will be further rounds this year, and so there may be no opportunity for those businesses looking to develop capital investments proposals,” he said.

He added that from the start of this month agri-environment projects up to £50,000 on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and Natura Sites will be considered under an ongoing approval process. Applicants for these projects do not need to wait for the September meetings.

Conservation award

SCOTTISH Whitefish Producers Association chief executive Mike Park has been given the wildlife charity WWF’s Award for Conservation Merit 2011 at a special ceremony in Switzerland

The award recognises Mr Park’s leadership in improving conservation measures and encouraging sustainable fishing practices in Scotland and beyond

WWF Scotland director Richard Dixon said: "We are delighted that Mike's work and leadership in the drive for sustainable white fish fisheries are being rewarded by this WWF conservation merit award.

“His action is very much part of the innovative work being done in Scotland to ensure that fishing continues to play its crucial role in our coastal communities through greater protection for the marine environment." 

Mr Park said:  “This prestigious award is clear recognition of the very positive changes being adopted by Scotland’s fishermen and that our efforts are now very much lauded on a broader international stage.  

“With others, I remain very much committed to the continued development of the Scottish approach to sustainable harvesting. However, our future plans will be very much governed by the degree of regionalisation and decentralisation that CFP reform brings.”


Netball: Team Rowley do it again

Division One – SLNA

TEAM Rowley achieved the double by winning the post Christmas netball league after a nail bitingly close match against second placed Loungers, having already taken the pre Christmas league.

Unst finished the season one point ahead of Hotfooters at the top of the second division after beating Wastside, while the third division was won by McEwans.

Match reports:


Loungers 35 v Team Rowley 36

The game would decide whether Team Rowley were to win the post-Christmas league and they set off at a quick pace with five goals.

Loungers, who could have forced a play-off for the title by winning, settled into the game after a shaky start and clawed their way back into the game to end the first quarter 10-10.

Loungers dominated the second quarter even though Team Rowley were shooting well, finishing with a two goal lead at 20-18.

The scoreline was neck and neck at 29 all by the end of the third quarter after both teams battled hard for every loose ball and worked both defences hard

With everything to go for in the final stretch, the nerves started to show, chanes were missed and opportunities given away. Team Rowley forged a slight lead, which Loungers pulled back, but by the final whistle they were still one goal short despite the tremendous play from Hazel Uren, Loungers’ player of the match.
The match between Challengers and AHS was postponed as AHS were away winning the Open Gold Scottish Schools Netball Cup last week.







Team Rowley

8 8 - 0 24


8 6 - 2 20


8 4 - 4 15


7 1 - 6 7


7 0 - 7 5


Division Two - Ocean Kinetics

Wastside 14 v Unst 38

It was top of the league against the bottom in the second division when Unst took on a keen and determined Wastside, the north isles team roaring to a 10-3 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Strong decisive play from Wastside and shooting duo Mhari Moncrieff and Catherine Henry closed the gap, but then Unst upped their game to make it 19-7 by half time.

Impressive play from Wastside’s Julie Keith could not stop the Unst onslaught, leaving the third quarter score at 27-9.

Defender Lindsay Morrison did her best to put pressure on the Unst attack in the final quarter, and earned player of the match along with Unst’s Claire Priest, whose team travelled home at the top of the division, thanking their sponsors Lakeland.

Shetland Ladies Netball Association will meet on Wednesday 18 May from 7pm to 9pm at the Clickimin. At least one member from each team must attend.

Call to delay Scalloway school closure

SEVEN Shetland councillors are leading a call to keep Scalloway secondary department open for a few more years after the local authority's decision to close it last December was backed by the Scottish government.

Local members Andrew Hughson and Iris Hawkins have rallied support from five fellow councillors, including the convener and vice convener, for their notice of motion, which goes to the full council on 17 May.

Scalloway secondary department was due to close at the end of the summer term after a huge community campaign failed to persuade councillors to keep it open. The government called the decision in, but then gave it their blessing.

The closure is part of Shetland Islands Council’s Blueprint for Education review, which is seeking to close a further four primary schools this year and reduce the education department's £42 million budget.

A meeting between the Scalloway parents council and SIC head of schools Helen Budge last month raised several concerns about the transition to the new school, with a follow up meeting arranged for Wednesday to see how those matters are being resolved.

One of the main worries is the lack of space in the social and dining areas at the Anderson High, which is already causing problems even before the arrival of 116 kids from Scalloway.

The notice of motion says the decision to close the school “left the community disillusioned with the council’s obvious disregard of the clear opinions expressed throughout the consultation to support the maintenance of secondary education in Scalloway”.

It adds: “The community’s concerns as to the capability of the accommodation available at the Anderson High School to accept pupils from Scalloway alongside current pupils have not been alleviated. The effect on all pupils concerned will be detrimental.”

The proposal to delay the closure until a new high school has been built in Lerwick would push it back several years, as the council is still deliberating over the site of the new school at Staney Hill.

The five councillors who have added their name to Mr Hughson and Mrs Hawkins’ motion are convener Sandy Cluness, vice convener Josie Simpson, North Isles members Robert Henderson and Laura Baisley and Shetland North member Alastair Cooper.

Mr Hughson said all the councillors they had approached for support had got behind them, but fellow Shetland Central member Betty Fullerton had been unable to do so as she is away.

The council’s services committee will debate the proposed closure of the four primary schools in Uyeasound, Burravoe, North Roe and Sandness on 10 May.

In December councillors voted to keep the closure threatened secondary department in Skerries, the smallest in Scotland, saying that it would have too big an impact on the small island’s economic and social infrastructure.


Hockey: Whalsay win the day

2011 Kirkwall Ladies Hockey Club Annual Challenge Tournament

Back row – Dianne Shearer, Angelina Jamieson, Josie Jamieson, Fiona Dally, Shona Moncrieff, Emily Shearer, Sonya Shearer, Eileen Robertson. Front row – Zoe Irvine, Stacey Laurenson, Maggie Irvine, Maree Simpson, Alison Williamson.WHALSAY Hockey Club flew down to Orkney to compete in the 26th annual Kirkwall Ladies Challenge Cup at the weekend.

On Saturday, a friendly was lined up between visiting teams Perthshire and Whalsay.  On a hot, sunny day Whalsay came out victorious 3-2 after a closely fought and great-natured game. 

Sunday proved to be another scorcher, so armed with ‘Factor 40’, Whalsay steeled themselves for the main competition.

The tournament took the form of a round robin with a total of seven teams participating.  In their opening game, Whalsay secured a draw with Perthshire with an Angelina Jamieson belter levelling the score with the mainlanders.

Emily Shearer sneaked a goal at the back post to win the game against Kirkwall Ladies, while fixtures against Corinthians and St. Margaret’s Hope remained 0-0.

Whalsay championed against both Dounby and Harlequins 2-0 with goals from Zoe Irvine, Angelina Jamieson and Stacey Laurenson.  This secured them a place in the final against Perthshire.

The final saw determined play from both teams, and with the first half ending 0-0, all was to play for.

In the closing minutes of the game, Whalsay successfully defended a series of short corners with Fiona Dally, Dianne Shearer and Shona Moncrieff communicating well. 

Maree Simpson then broke down the right and swung in a cross to Stacey Laurenson  who thrashed it home.

Following the final, a Kirkwall Ladies Hockey Club representative presented the Challenge Cup to Whalsay team captain Maree Simpson, and the runners up quaich to Perthshire.

One thing Scott and Fox agree on – the voting system

AS SCOTLAND votes in a new government on Thursday, the UK’s electorate is being asked to give their view on a new voting system to elect MPs to the House of Commons.

The referendum on the ‘alternative vote’ (AV) will be the third ballot paper that voters will be handed when they attend one of the 36 polling station across the isles.

At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system, but as part of the Con-Lib coalition deal, both parties agreed to hold a referendum over whether this should be replaced by the alternative vote, which, it is thought, could bring more proportional representation.

The five candidates standing for the Shetland constituency seat for the Scottish Parliament, although not affected by the outcome, mirror the views expressed in the national debate on the issue

Not surprisingly, Lib-Dem candidate Tavish Scott backed the move towards AV, as party policy has for a long time called for a voting system that does not favour the two large parties.

"Despite the rubbish talked about by the dinosaurs in the 'No' camp, AV is a simple and sensible way forward which gives the voter more control. It ends the need to vote tactically in marginal seats. It means that, to win, a candidate needs to collect the support of at least half the electorate.

“The 'No' camp wants to restrict a voter's choice to one party. But most voters don't live in such a simple black and white world. They will welcome the chance that AV gives them to rank the parties in their order of preference,” Mr Scott said.

In contrast, Conservative candidate Sandy Cross said AV seemed “rather complex”, adding that the benefits it might bring would not outweigh the disadvantages.

“It seems to me that AV also demands a higher level of political engagement and knowledge of the relative merits of different parties than I believe many people actually have.

“I am not personally against some degree of proportional representation in elections, and I think this might be worthy of further exploration for the UK government - it seems to work okay in Scotland.”

Labour candidate Jamie Kerr, meanwhile, said he was undecided but would tend towards a ‘No’ on the AV question.

“Even the ‘Yes’ campaigners don’t think it is a good system. They say it is a stepping stone for something better. At the moment I lean towards a ‘No’, because I think the debate has not been had properly. It is all being done in a bit of a rush, and it is an option no one wants.

“It does not mean that I don’t want the voting system changed, but this time round I am not persuaded either way, and therefore my default position is ‘No’.”

Jean Urquhart for the Scottish Nationalist Party said AV would be the “worst of all the alternative voting systems”, and she therefore will vote ‘No’.

“What can happen with AV, and what cannot happen with any of the other voting systems, is that everybody gets somebody they don’t want. That is quite spectacular.

“I don’t like the first past the post system; I don’t think it is fair. I think the system we have voting for councillors (Single Transferable Vote) is one of the fairest, but the AV system could mean that 40 odd percent want candidate A, and we all end up with C.”

Finally, independent candidate Billy Fox said AV would be a step in the right direction, which is the reason why he has decided to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum.

“Returning a no vote would kill any chance of voting reform for the foreseeable future,” he said.
“It is important to understand that any change would only affect the Westminster elections, the voting system for the Scottish Parliamentary elections of a constituency vote and additional regional list vote would not change.”

Explanations of these voting systems are available at or by contacting The Electoral Commission on 0800 3 280 280.

Election 2011: Coastguard, power, fuel, transport and tax

POSTAL voters in the Scottish Parliament election are being reminded that their votes must be in by 10pm on Thursday.

For other voters, polling stations will be open throughout Shetland from 7am until 10pm on Thursday. Details of local polling stations are on poll cards sent out to all eligible voters, but can also be explained by calling 01595 744554.

On Thursday people will be able to vote for their favourite Shetland candidate, a regional candidate and their preferred voting system in the referendum on voting reform. Information about the voting systems on offer are available at

As the campaign draws to a climax, SNP candidate Jean Urquhart has questioned revelations in The Shetland Times last week that the Lerwick coastguard station has won a reprieve from the UK government.

Mrs Urquhart said western isles MP Angus MacNeill had spoken to shipping minister Mike Penning, who said the situation had not changed.

“It's not clever to raise false hopes about such a serious issue when a telephone call would have clarified any question over the timescale for decisions being made,” she said.

Independent candidate Billy Fox has criticised the payment of £900,000 to energy companies including Scottish & Southern to shut wind turbines down on 5 and 6 April so they did not overload the grid.

“What is needed, as we strive to put future energy solutions in place, is more joined up thinking and less irresponsible grandstanding rhetoric from our politicians. We are heading towards an environmental and economic disaster, not to mention energy security, if we do not get this right,” Mr Fox said.

Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott said the high cost of fuel was his highest priority, saying the new Scottish government had to throw its weight behind the islands’ 5p derogation on fuel duty and push for it to be extended.

He also wants the Office of Fair Trading to investigate once again “the huge differential in fuel costs between Shetland and Aberdeen” and to introduce a 24 hour card payment systems at rural fuel stations to cut operating costs.

On the need to reduce dependence on fuel, he said: “Better local bus and taxi services aimed at helping people get to work can all help, but for many across Shetland there is no real alternative to the car.

"New electric and low carbon cars can also help, with Unst already taking a lead in the development of hydrogen powered alternatives. The public sector in Shetland can lead in purchasing low carbon vehicles."

The former Scottish transport minister added that he would fight for business travel to be restored to the Air Discount Scheme that he was responsible for introducing when he was in government and would battle any attempts to downgrade the lifeline ferry service.

"The cost of our ferry links is always an issue, as it is to all islands communities. That is why it was unacceptable that the SNP government gave special treatment to the western isles, cutting the fares on their ferries, rather than sharing the available funding to cut the fares on all ferry routes.

“The SNP and Labour plans to maintain the lower fares to the western isles, but to do nothing for us, are not acceptable. Liberal Democrats offer a fair share of the funds for all island communities.”

Labour candidate Jamie Kerr took time to repeat criticism of the UK coalition government’s “North Sea tax grab”, citing Centrica’s threat not to reopen a major gas field off England’s west coast as a result.

He called on the government to reverse the tax immediately. “Jobs and investment in the North Sea is being put at risk by the Lib Dem/Tory coalition government’s reckless tax plans. The effect on Shetland of companies like Centrica pulling out would be devastating with massive job losses.”


Shetland College chairman stands down

Andrew HughsonSHETLAND councillor Andrew Hughson has resigned as chairman of Shetland College’s board of management prior to standing down from the council next year.

Mr Hughson, who was elected in 1997 to represent Shetland Central, said that working for the college had been a “sanctuary” during the past two years when Shetland Islands Council has been through some of its darkest days.

However he said he has fulfilled his commitment to be chairman for four years and feels it is the right time to pass the mantle onto another councillor who might wish to hold onto the position if re-elected in 2012.

The keen crofter and musician from Girlsta was voted onto the SIC after airing strong criticisms over the way the previous administration had operated under chief executive Morgan Goodlad.

However after four years in post, Mr Hughson said that he had become “disillusioned” and had no desire to stand for election again.

He was one of a handful of councillors who went public in their opposition to the way Mr Goodlad’s successor Dave Clark ran the council in 2009 and has clearly remained frustrated, despite the implementation of an improvement plan under the latest chief executive Alistair Buchan following the Accounts Commission’s own criticisms of the authority last year.

He said his involvement in the college was one bright spot on an otherwise dark horizon.

“During the bleakest of times there was always something lovely going on at the college and it became my sanctuary. I have thoroughly enjoyed it, it’s a marvellous place and I do hope that whoever comes after me enjoys it as much as I do.

“My reason for leaving is that I have decided not to stand at the next election. I have been disillusioned and I have business plans. I am not ready for the grave yet and there is more to life than the council.”

“I’ve also fulfilled my commitment that I made to take on the four year appointment and this will allow someone with an interest in the college to have a year to see if they like it, and if they do they can hit the ground running next year.”

The college has been through many changes during Mr Hughson’s tenure, having recovered from a highly critical HMIE inspectors report in 2005. Only last month the board heard that HMIE had confidence in all aspects of the college’s work after a full inspection in March.

Mr Hughson was full of praise for the energy and hard work of former director George Smith, under whom the college raised the cash for a £4.5 million extension which should be going out to tender this summer.

Mr Smith left his post last year and in February the director of the NAFC Marine Centre David Gray was appointed to jointly manage both colleges. Mr Hughson said he would be an asset to the institution.

In March the 57 year old had accepted the invitation from his colleagues to carry on chairing the college board, but at last month’s meeting when fellow members congratulated him on the latest positive report from HMIE he decided it was a good time to call it a day.

“I feel that I am leaving the college in a better state than when I came there and I think that is a good note to leave on,” he said.

“I see it going from strength to strength and it will be exciting when the extension is built. It will give it more of a campus feel and it will become even more attractive to students in Shetland.”

North Isles member Laura Baisley is vice chairman of the board.

Fishermen battle against discards ban

SCOTTISH fishing leaders travel to Brussels on Tuesday to urge the European Commission not apply “electric shock treatment” to the industry over banning discards.

The European fishing industry is being allowed to address fishing commissioner Maria Damanaki over their fears about her call for an outright ban on the practice following public pressure.

Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong said “significant sections” of the industry would fail if “inappropriate regulations” were implemented.

Mr Armstrong said the EC’s approach to the issue had been “alarmingly superficial”, ignoring the complexity of fishing, especially in the kind of mixed fishery carried out by the Scottish fleet.

“The Commission’s present stance does no justice to the complexity of the problem and to the commitment of stakeholders to innovate and experiment. Instead, in sharp contrast, the message transmitted to the public is that the industry clearly needs the electric-shock treatment of a ban to stimulate action,” he said.

“Simply banning the practice is over-simplistic – a commitment to regulatory change must accompany the ban, or the consequences for the industry will be unpredictable instability, with serious implications for our fragile fishing communities.”

The call for a ban on discards has come from TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign which has attracted more than 670,000 supporters through its website


Belmont House - a remarkable job

Belmont HouseAFTER 15 years of dedication and hard work The Belmont Trust celebrated the completed refurbishment of Belmont House, in Unst, described as “the most ambitious classical house in the northern isles”.

Sir Kenneth CalmanAround 70 invited guests turned out on Saturday to witness the official opening by the chairman of the National Trust for Scotland, Sir Kenneth Calman.

Belmont House is now a self-catering holiday home, but also available for weddings, community events and creative workshops. The first guests moved in on Saturday afternoon.

Recalling the highs and low of years of fundraising and then the painstaking refurbishment of the A-listed Georgian country house, trust chairman John Scott thanked everybody who had given money and time to realise the ambitious project.

“We all had faith that we could do it, but it took courage to keep going and saying ‘yes’ we can do this. It is a tribute to the community, that this could have been achieved against all the odds,” he said.

Drawing RoomThe Belmont Trust was founded in 1996 to buy the derelict house from its Edinburgh owner for just £5.

More than £1 million later, the house is back to its former glory overlooking the south entrance of Bluemull Sound.

Opening the building, Sir Kenneth praised the community who had done “a remarkable job” by “showing what could be done”, adding that Belmont was special “not just for Shetland”.

View from the officeBuilt in 1775 by Unst landowner Thomas Mouat, the house fell into disrepair during the 20th century, and was “just about to fall down”, when the Belmont Trust stepped in to rescue it.

This was done in three phases with the main contractor being the Shetland Amenity Trust and its highly skilled workforce.

Historic Scotland, one of the main funders of the restoration, insisted on techniques and materials contemporary to the 18th century.

A total of 23 different agencies and private individuals have sponsored the restoration. Many more have given time as volunteers to make the project happen.

Bookings can be made via e-mail to or by phoning 01957 744 394.

The undemocratic arithmetic of democracy

by Jonathan Wills, Labour candidate (failed), 1974 and 1999.

This is one of the more interesting elections since I first cast a vote, 41 years ago. The intervention of a plausible independent candidate with a ready-made following (some 3,600, to judge by the signatures on the anti-windfarm petition) means it's theoretically possible for anyone to win this five-horse race with roughly that number of votes.

The arithmetic tells us that, if roughly 60 per cent of the electorate of just over 17,000 turn out to vote, as usually happens here, the winner could represent Shetland at Holyrood for the next four years with the support of between a fifth and a quarter of the electorate.

That's because, although we're having a vote in the UK's Alternative Vote referendum on the same day, our constituency MSP is still elected on the discredited and undemocratic Westminster system of first-past-the-post.

I've never understood why we elect the regional list MSPs by a form of proportional representation, but the local MSP in the bad old way. Clearly we have some way to go before our democracy is perfected.

A year into the much disliked Con-Dem coalition at Westminster, it would be a brave punter who put a fiver on the Lib-Dem vote here to go up. Tavish Scott's done his best to distance himself from the coalition's toxic UK brand, but politics is an unfair business and his record as a hard-working constituency member may not be enough to save him from a hammering on 5 May.

His core vote dipped below 50 per cent in 2003, but with 67 per cent of the poll in 2007 he still looked unbeatable - until Billy Fox entered the ring.

The Tory is a disarmingly frank chap with local connections but, thanks to the Cameron albatross around his neck, he'll surely be hard pushed to hold the core Tory vote, which is probably only about 800.

Labour's Jamie Kerr is a likeable and energetic civil rights lawyer and in normal times could be expected to boost their support above 20 per cent, but these are not normal times.

There are too many members who've left in disgust at the betrayal of Labour principles. Letting the bankers off the leash in 1997 and off the hook in 2008 appears to have scuppered Labour's chances. Still in quarantine after the illegal invasion of Iraq, the party may be moving out of intensive care, but it's a long way from recovering its role as the acceptable face of social democracy.

That brings us to the SNP candidate, Jean Urquhart. Attacked for being "parachuted in" to Shetland, she nonetheless knows a great deal about the politics of the Highlands and Islands. She also has long experience of running a small business in a remote rural community with similar problems to ours. No 'Tartan Tory' she, either: Mrs Urquhart has an impressive record of speaking up for progressive causes, as a Highland councillor and on other public organisations where she serves.

Despite the slightly cynical Lib-Dem campaign against the Nats over our local school closures, the SNP has three very useful local cards: as well as the popular freeze on council tax and continued free tuition for students, the fact is that the SNP minority government has made not a bad job of protecting the SIC's and other local authorities' budgets.

The cuts could have been much, much worse after the financial catastrophe caused by Brown's bankers' charter and George Osborne's pitiful attempts at fiscal reform (which have actually made it easier for the super-rich to avoid tax by moving 'offshore').

If you look at the SIC's £18m budget deficit, as I'm obliged to do almost daily, alas, you'll see that probably less than £3m of it is due to unavoidable cuts in Scottish government support. Most of the deficit is the result of incompetent political management at local level and extravagant spending on grandiose and/or abortive council projects. Not even the jittery Lib-Dems are blaming the SNP for the council's follies.

The SNP minority government hasn't been perfect but on the whole it's been a reasonable, moderate administration in the old Scandinavian social democratic tradition. Many of the disappointments have resulted from compromises any minority government is forced to make.

I think the SNP's earned an unfettered second term. In Jean Urquhart we have a candidate who'd be an effective and respected voice for Shetland with the new administration. Oh, and she's on the regional list too, by the way, so you can actually vote for her twice!


Odds shifting as election approaches

BETS on the outcome of the election in Shetland are reflecting uncertainty over the future of what has been dubbed the safest seat in Scotland.

Over the weekend the odds on independent candidate Billy Fox shortened to 2:1 against, while Liberal Democrat incumbent Tavish Scott is seeing his position as favourite eroded to just 1:2 for. The SNP’s Jean Urquhart is third favourite at 14:1 against.

Meanwhile a national opinion poll suggested the Green Party might end up with one more seat in the Scottish Parliament than the LibDems.

The Green Party has been upping its campaign for the second vote over the past few days, citing author Ian Rankin as their latest celebrity supporter.

The party has pledged to reverse cuts to housing, education and local services and to invest in public services to support the economy, back a universal insulation scheme and a “public transport renaissance”.

Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie said the party would raise money from taxing big business and the richest people in society.

“It's time to shift the Scottish economy away from a reliance on financial speculation and dwindling oil reserves, and towards low carbon, local and long term jobs,” he said.

The party said it would reform the planning system to give communities a right of appeal in line with those of developers.


Broadband wilts in the heat

Royal Wedding Celebration
The folk of Northmavine turned out to join the royal wedding celebrations at Gluss on Friday - Photo: Pete Bevington

THE ROYAL wedding and the hot weather has been slowing down broadband speeds throughout Shetland on Friday.

While communities around Shetland were enjoying street parties to join the celebrations in London, others were having difficulty watching the proceedings over the internet.

Ian Brown, at Shetland Broadband, said that the current spell of high pressure that was bringing out the sunshine was also disrupting the microwave link connecting the islands telecommunications to the rest of the world.

“It’s the same story we have had for the past 30 years that I have been in Shetland,” he said.

He said that anyone connected to the Cable & Wireless network used by Shetland Islands Council and the community broadband project in Vidlin and Fetlar would have experienced problems on Friday.

BT customers are also likely to have been affected.

The problem, he said was “troposcatter”, when layers of hot and cold air reflect and confuse radio signals and lead to some transmissions travelling further than normal while others cut out.

However Shetland Telecom development manager Marvin Smith said the number of people trying to watch Wills and Kate tie the knot at Westminster Abbey over the internet would have added to the problem.

“Everybody is having internet problems. That’s partly due to the weather affecting the signal, but undoubtedly the amount of people going on iPlayer to watch the wedding is putting a big strain on the system,” he said.

Mr Brown said experiences like this demonstrated the importance of Shetland Telecom’s £1 million connection to the Faroese fibre optic cable that should be complete in June.

“Shetland Telecom is the solution to the microwave fading problem and the sooner the fibre optic cable comes in the better!”


Garriock Bros - Building Centre