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Scottish Independence Debate


Tait found safe and well

POLICE in Shetland confirmed over night that they have found missing man Oliver Tait safe and well at an address in Lerwick.

Thirty eight year Mr Tait was reported missing over the weekend.

Officers have been looking for Mr Tait, of East Burrafirth, since 2pm on Saturday, when he was reported to be sporting a head injury and was wearing a blue parka style jacket emblazoned with the word Shetland.

This morning (Tuesday), a police spokesman said: “Once again the Lerwick Police were grateful for the level of information received and support provided by the local community, which contributed to a satisfactory outcome of the enquiry.”

In brief - 15 March, 2010

Lollie Graham tribute

A special evening to pay tribute to the life and work of the late Lollie Graham will be held by the Althing in the Tingwall School on Saturday 20 March starting at 7.30pm.

The main tribute will be given by Shetland archivist Brian Smith, while Jonathan Wills will speak about Lollie's work as a teacher and Drew Ratter will speak about his crofting interests.

Some of Lollie's poetry will be recited by Mary Blance and Laureen Johnson, there will be fiddle music provided by Ivor Smith and friends and Thelma Leslie and her friends will reflect on Lollie's interest in drama.

In addition there will be recordings of Lollie reciting the Vagaland poems 'Da Tree Isles' and 'Da Swan's Gaet'.

Silver for sole chef

VIDLIN student Daniel Callieu has won a silver medal at the national catering industry exhibition Hotelympia.

After winning an internal college competition, Daniel competed against student chefs from across the country to prepare Sole Marguery in front of high-profile industry judges and numerous visitors to Hotelympia.

Chef lecturer Gordon Lang said: “The standard of the eleven entrants was extremely high so Daniel was up against stiff competition. He was professional throughout and we are all very proud of his achievement.”

The competition brief was to produce a 'classical dish' using flat fish. Daniel made fillets of poached sole with a white wine garnish, shrimps and mussels.


Coppers seek copper thieves

SHETLAND police are looking for witnesses after the theft of a quantity of scrap copper and lead from outside a private house in Hoswick sometime during the last two weeks.

Anyone with any information can contact the police on 01595 692110.


Salmon exports leap

More than 13 million fresh salmon were exported from Scotland last year worth £220 million, an increase of 24 per cent on 2008, according to Scottish Salmon Producers' Organisation (SSPO).

The SSPO is confident of further growth with global demand strong, estimating the world’s has an appetite for an extra 190,000 tonnes of salmon this year – one and a half times the Scottish production.

SSPO chief executive Scott Landsburgh said: “Salmon is the largest food export from Scotland. It currently accounts for 55 per cent of the total value of food exports from Scotland, underpinning its increasing importance to the domestic economy.”

SIC starts search for new chief

COUNCILLORS in Shetland will get their first chance to discuss a replacement for former chief executive David Clark when they meet in private tomorrow (Tuesday).

Local authority umbrella group COSLA has proposed Shetland Islands Council consider taking on a temporary chief executive until the next election in two years.

The suggestion is to appoint an experienced official quickly rather than advertise for someone permanent to lead the council while it is investigated by local government watchdog Audit Scotland.

Some councillors have expressed disquiet that no steps appear to have been made to replace Mr Clark since he left office on 24 February with a tax free settlement of £250,000.

However convener Sandy Cluness said: “We are looking at all options at the present time in the hope of getting an experienced chief executive in position as soon as possible.”

Two names under consideration are Alan Campbell, who retired from Aberdeenshire Council in 2008 after 17 years as head of their paid service, and Arthur McCourt, who left the top job with Highland Council in 2007 after 12 years.

An experienced chief officer could provide stability while Audit Scotland starts its investigation this month into what went wrong when Mr Clark was at the helm at Lerwick Town Hall.

COSLA’s Improvement Service have also been invited to assist the council in the long term to get back on an even keel.

There are concerns in some quarters that a temporary chief executive might be employed part time, basing themselves on the mainland and only travelling to the islands for a few days each week.

The SIC has been left somewhat rudderless since Mr Clark left, saying his position had become “virtually impossible” following national media reports about his private life and the impact these may have had on his career prospects.

However the former business consultant has wasted no time getting back to work. Five days after signing the settlement with the SIC he re-launched the private company he ran prior to his move north.

In a statement on the Dalzell Projects website dated 2 March, Mr Clark states: “Having ended my venture into permanent public sector employment as Chief Executive of Shetland Islands Council, I am pleased to announce that as of 1st March 2010, dalzell projects is again actively trading.

“The 'phone has already been ringing and my first assignment back in the world of consultancy takes me back to London next week.

“I would like to thank Shetland Isalnds (sic) Council for the opportunity of being their Chief Executive. I consider it a priviledge (sic), and look forward to seeing the initiatives we began together bear fruit in the years to come. I wish SIC and the community my best wishes for the future.”

The company has slimmed down since he started working with the SIC on 1 June, when it listed as its partners his father Ian Clark, himself a former SIC chief executive; Andrew Laidler, a consultant he employed to carry out the planning review of Anderson High School; Paul Gatrill, a retired businessman; and mechanical engineer Simon Rae.

Now the only team member alongside him is his father, who staunchly defended his son in the local press, saying that he had been the victim of a concerted campaign.

Back in court

AN UNEMPLOYED Shetland teenager who was fined for assault last week was back in court yesterday (Monday) pleading guilty to the same charge.

Eighteen year old Daniel Ewan, of 25 Ladies Drive, Lerwick, admitted pushing a woman to the ground at a disco at Mid Yell public hall on Saturday night, when he appeared from custody at Lerwick Sheriff Court. Sheriff Philip Mann adjourned the case for reports.

Last Wednesday Sheriff Graeme Napier fined Ewan £500 and ordered him to pay £300 compensation after he pled guilty to assaulting two men in Lerwick last December. The sheriff then deferred the sentence for two weeks to allow him to come up with “a sensible proposal” for paying the fines.

A 17 year old man was also arrested on Saturday night at Mid Yell hall in an unrelated assault, which is the subject of a separate report to the procurator fiscal.

Police seek missing man

SHETLAND police are looking for a 38 year old man from Shetland’s west side who has not been seen since Saturday afternoon.

Oliver Tait, of East Burrafirth, near Aith, was last seen in Lerwick wearing a blue parka-style jacket with the word SHETLAND on it. He also had an injury to his head.

A police spokesman said they wished to speak to Mr Tait to confirm that he was fit and well.

Bank horror stories

SHETLAND’S Citizen Advice Bureau has backed calls from Westminster for Scotland’s banks to stop imposing unfair charges on customers.

The comments come as isles MP Alistair Carmichael requested people to inform him of any bad experiences they have had with their banks of late.

CAB manager Les Irving said that in recent years the banks had been taking advantage of the most vulnerable people in society.

“The number of clients who have contacted our office in Market House about financial problems has increased by over 40 per cent per cent over the last two years, and many of these have been victims of unfair banking policies,” he said.

In the last few weeks the Lerwick office has dealt with cases where huge bank charges have been imposed on people with tiny overdrafts, people already in debt have been offered high interest loans and those in debt have been “hassled quite aggressively”.

Mr Irving said: “These cases are not unusual. In fact they are quite common.

“In a recent Shetland case, a 62 year old man came to the bureau with regard to an  overdraft which he was having difficulty paying off.

“Due to him having to change his job he had a significant drop in his income. This resulted in him overdrawing at the bank and accruing additional charges of over £1,700.

“The bank then encouraged him to take an overdraft of £4,000 to cover these charges and other costs. Due to his limited income he currently has a payment plan of £40 per month.  He thinks that if the bank had not added the excessive charges his overdraft would have been much less, and he may have had some chance of paying back the overdraft before retirement.

“In a second case a woman’s ex-partner had obtained access to her account on several occasions and had repeatedly taken out money. This had resulted in a total of £2,597 of bank charges over a period of six months. During this time he had intercepted her mail and removed all letters and statements from the bank, so the client was unaware of the problem. The bank has been unwilling to refund the charges.”

These local cases helped informed the Scottish affairs report published on Wednesday, which said the banks must meet with CAB staff to discuss how to change their policies.

The report can be read at:

Mr Carmichael can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In brief – 13 March, 2010

Hascosay sails east

THE 17 strong crew of NorthLink’s former freight and livestock vessel Hascosay are taking a trip to the Middle East in the next few days to hand the ship over to its new owner.

The company reported yesterday (Friday) that it sold Hacosay to a Jordanian buyer who would be using it to ship livestock to Jordan from Brazil, Georgia and Romania.

She will leave her temporary berth at Kirkwall for a 12 day trip to a shipyard in Beirut for modification, with her 17 crew on board. They will fly back to resume duty on board other NorthLink vessels once the journey is over.

NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said: “We’re delighted to have secured a buyer for Hascosay. During her eight years with us, many people grew very attached to her and it would have been particularly sad if such a sturdy vessel had gone to scrap.”


Seafood buffet

Preparations are underway for the Fish Fiesta, the annual seafood buffet held to raise money for the Fishermen’s Mission with the help of the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway.

The event on Friday 19 March demonstrates the huge variety of seafood caught in Shetland waters and the culinary expertise of Da Haaf catering staff. After the meal guests can enjoy a talk by the centre’s principal, Professor David Gray.

Tickets are disappearing so anyone interested should contact NAFC or the Fishermen’s Mission soon.


Indian dance

Tickets have gone on sale for Dance Iyahami’s performance at Lerwick Town Hall on Saturday 20 March.

Thryaa-Trinity dance company will show the work they have done with local dancers learning classical Indian techniques, combining Bharatanatyam choreography with Shetland traditional music.

The main performance will feature rhythmic footwork and beautiful hand gestures in dances based on the ancient classical South Indian temple dancers dating back over 3000 years.

Ticket prices are £8/£6 (concessions) and can be bought from Shetland box office on 01595 745555.

There are still a few places for anyone aged over 16 who would like to participate in the performance.  Experience is not necessary. Further details are available from Emily Sharp at Shetland Arts on 01595 743843.


Fishing News editor retires

THE FISHING industry paid tribute to the editor of Fishing News Tim Oliver yesterday who retired after 23 years at the helm of the paper.

Fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead joined the praise of Mr Oliver, saying he was one of journalism’s “outstanding servants”.

"Tim has given fishermen a voice and a real presence. I wish him well in his retirement and look forward to seeing him at future fishing events in his consulting role," Mr Lochhead said.

Vikings to the south!

AFTER many months of planning and preparation the long awaited south mainland Up Helly Aa finally took shape yesterday.

A 24 strong squad led by Jarl Aleksandur Liefsson, also known as David Smith of Maywick, Bigton were their rounds from 8am.

Their route included the Anderson High School, Sound primary, Cunningsburgh and Sandwick schools and the Bigton shop where the billhead and musings of the jokes committee were on display

A Viking feast was hosted by the Sumburgh Hotel and GAC before moving on to Dunrossness primary and the Overtonlea care centre and then tea at the Levenwick Hall.

The procession started at 7.30pm with the galley burning on St. Ninians Isle.

The jarl squad started the night’s festivities with a bit of Canadian barn dancing in the Bigton hall and clued up at the Sandwick Social Club some hours later!

The jarl said: “It’s incredible, an honour and a privilege and we’re having a fantastic day.”

Total deal to be tabled on Tuesday

A MULTI million pound deal could be signed in Shetland next week by UK energy minister Lord Hunt and representatives of French oil and gas giant Total to herald the dawn of a new age for the country’s energy industry.

Shetland Islands Council (SIC) meets privately on Tuesday to discuss the final details of a settlement with Total to bring ashore the first gas from the new fields being discovered in the north Atlantic, west of the isles.

Councillors hope the company will sign a 30 year lease on land to build its £500 million gas processing plant next to Europe’s largest oil exporting terminal at Sullom Voe.

The SIC are believed to be looking for a small royalty on all the gas that flows through the islands from the Laggan/Tormore field before it travels via the Frigg pipeline to St Fergus.

Such a deal would be similar to the disturbance agreement signed with the oil industry when Sullom Voe was built in the 1970s, which paid the council one penny on every tonne of oil that passed through the terminal until 2000.

If negotiations can be finalised on Tuesday then Lord Hunt could be in Shetland as early as next Thursday to sign Total’s field development plan, two weeks earlier than initially expected.

Last month the SIC’s planning board gave Total permission to erect the processing plant together with import and export pipelines, isolation valves, associated roads and hard standing on land at Sullom Voe, Orca Voe and Firths Voe.

The development will see the removal of 350,000 tonnes of peat, which will be stored in “reservoirs” for the 30 year lifespan of the plant.

The council is keen to replenish its dwindling oil reserves and minimise service cuts being forced on it by tough economic times. The company has refused a request for a stand alone community fund.

The government is also desperate for new sources of gas to help bolster the country’s energy security.

If an agreement can be signed this month, work on preparing the site will commence in April with production expected to start in June 2014 creating 60 to 70 full time jobs on top of the hundreds of men who will be employed during the construction phase.

Police name woman in harbour

THE POLICE have confirmed that the woman who died in Lerwick harbour last night (Friday) was 61 year old Nastenka Vasileva.

The woman, who is from Eastern Europe but has lived in Lerwick for some years, was last seen at 6.20pm last night.

She was reported missing at around 4am this morning and a search was mounted by local police and coastguard officers with support from the Lerwick lifeboat.

The lifeboat crew recovered her body from the sea close to the isle of Bressay, at around 7am.

The police said there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances, but have issued an appeal for any witnesses who may have seen Ms Vasileva on the waterfront between Lerwick harbour and The Knab on Friday night.

The police said she was five foot six inches tall, of slim build and wearing blue jeans, a waist length, maroon parka-style jacket.

Anyone with information can contact Lerwick police on 01595 692110. A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.

Tagged for assault

A FORMER drug addict who came to Shetland to start a new life was tagged for three months at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday (Thursday) after he admitted assaulting two women during a drunken night out last year.

Carl Dew, aged 32, of 24 Sandside, Firth, had been thrown out of a house in Lerwick’s Sandveien on 11 September after an argument. However when he was followed out by the occupants, he grabbed one by the throat and struck her and her friend on the head.

Yesterday Dew pled guilty to both assaults as well as causing a breach of the peace and smashing two windows in the house, causing damage valued at £313.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly said Dew had been a drug user who had moved to Shetland to start a new life. “To a large extent he has done that and he is deeply ashamed he has let himself down,” he said.

Sheriff William Livingston ordered Dew to be tagged for three months, though he will be allowed to take one week off to try and obtain a heavy goods vehicle licence. He also ordered him to pay £200 in compensation for the broken windows.

Vandalism and violence

FIVE young people from Lerwick were in the dock at the town’s sheriff court yesterday (Thursday) after two drunken nights that ended with a violent struggle with the police and a spate of vandalism.

Ross MacDougall, aged 21, of 8 Burnside, 17 year old Trevor Couper, of Cairnfield Road, and 18 year old Liam Cromwell, of 51 Burgh Road, all admitted struggling violently with the police at a house in Hoofields on 1 November last year.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said the police were called to the house when the three refused to leave, and the violence meted out on officers was “at the higher end”.

The court heard that the young men thought the police were “heavy handed”, but they accepted that gave them no excuse for their behaviour.

Couper and Cromwell also admitted being involved in a night of drunken vandalism in the town on the night of 26 May last year, when they caused £577 worth of damage to a car door they dented on Browns Road.

James Dade, aged 19, of no fixed abode, pled guilty to maliciously breaking two windows in a  house in King Harald Street the same night, while 23 year old Shelley Hendren, of 10 Goodlad Crescent, admitted maliciously damaging a tap and a bird feeder outside a house on St Magnus Street.

Sheriff William Livingston described the incidents as “a shocking catalogue of offending” and handed out fines of £100 to Hendren and Couper, £150 to Dade and £200 to Cromwell.

Cromwell and Couper were also ordered to pay £250 each in compensation for the damaged car door.

Meanwhile sentence was deferred on MacDougall, who also admitted assaulting a workmate at Lerwick’s Fort Charlotte during a drunken argument following a Christmas works do on 13 December. Reports will be compiled and he must reappear in court on 25 April.

The ‘Grid’ come to Shetland

BUSINESSES in Shetland are being invited to discuss the future of the isles' energy industry with representatives from the National Grid, Shetland Islands Council, Viking Energy and North Scotland Industries Group (NSIG) during a two day event later this month.

The event at Lerwick Hotel next Tuesday and Wednesday (16 and 17 March) will include presentations on potential renewable activities for the island.

Alison Kay, commercial director for transmissions at National Grid, will deliver a presentation on the company¹s plans for Shetland and its vision for renewable energy.

NSIG chief executive Ian Couper said: "We look forward to hearing what National Grid has to say about the future requirements and its plans for the islands

"The event will help raise people¹s awareness of the potential that the renewable industry could provide for local businesses."

Ms Kay said: "Britain is undergoing an energy revolution in the coming decades. Working with the Scottish Transmission owners we are keen to help Shetland realise its huge potential for renewable energy and working with groups like NSIG is a vital way to help achieve this."

NSIG is also organising a similar event for French company Total, next month, to raise awareness of the business opportunities created by its Laggan - Tormore gas development, expected to get the final go-ahead next week.

Anyone interested in the Total event should contact Angela Wilson, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website

SIC rocked by housing grant cuts

SHETLAND Islands Council’s plans for housing have been thrown into chaos after being told to expect a £1.2 million cut in annual government funding as of 2015.

The blow, revealed at yesterday's (Thursday) meeting of the council's services committee, is further evidence of Shetland being at the receiving end of the squeeze on public spending.

Earlier this week, the Scottish government told lifeline ferry operator NorthLink to slow its ferries down in order save around £1 million on the company's high fuel bill.

Yesterday the council's head of housing, Chris Medley, said phasing out the housing support grant over the next five years would throw his department's business plan into disarray and could also have a financial impact on the overall council budget.

It is likely to lead to an above inflation rise in council house rents, a reduction in the council's ambitious plan to build new affordable homes, as well as cuts in its maintenance programme.

Earlier this year, the Scottish government had warned Shetland Islands Council to expect £3 million per annum less in grant funding for the next six years.

Shetland Islands Council is the only local authority in Scotland to receive housing support grant.

The annual grant of £1.2 million helps service the authority's huge £45million housing debt, incurred in the ‘70s when the council embarked on a huge council house building programme for workers moving to Shetland to build Sullom Voe oil terminal.

Now the government wants the SIC to draw up a debt reduction strategy to see if the council would cope without £1.2 million a year.

In return, Shetland Islands Council might get a share of a £25 million pot to encourage the construction of affordable houses across Scotland.

Shetland has already asked for £4.3 million from this pot, but has been told that it is unlikely to receive that much.

Mr Medley said: "All the plans we have of building new houses, improving houses and keeping rents as low as possible, are all based on a business model that includes this housing support grant.

"If that is removed all of the council's financial modelling goes out of the window, and needs to be rethought.

"It also adds to the problem with the budget the council already has," he said.

Mr Medley will now have to draw up the strategy during the next two weeks for a special services committee to be held just before a meeting with Scottish housing minister Alex Neil in early April.

He added that even if Shetland was to receive a share of the £25 million capital funding, it would be far less than the money lost through withdrawal of the housing support grant.

Ferry changes bad for sport

CHANGES to the NorthLink ferry timetable imposed unilaterally by the Scottish government this week will have a detrimental impact on sport development in Shetland.

The council's sports development officer Bob Kerr said yesterday (Thursday) that the arrival of NorthLink's faster vessels had been the single most important factor in boosting sport development in the isles.

The Hrossey and Hjaltland replaced older and slower vessels operated by P&O Scottish Ferries, which ran the service up until 2002.

NorthLink cut journey times by up to six hours enabling young sportsmen and women to compete at a national level without spending too much time on travelling.

It also made weekend return trips to tournaments possible without the need for overnight accommodation on the Scottish mainland, thereby significantly cutting costs of such ventures.

Earlier this week, the Scottish government told NorthLink to run their vessels on two rather than four engines, adding an extra hour to the 14 hour trip between Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen.

Mr Kerr warned that this was a backwards step, undermining the valuable work that had been done since the arrival of the NorthLink vessels almost eight years ago.

"Any proposed changes to the timetable will have a significant impact, for the sports community in particular,” Mr Kerr said.

"We rely on the NorthLink ferry service. It is the most cost-effective means of having groups of youngsters and adults being able to access sport competitions on the mainland.

"With the current timetable as it stands, a sailing from Aberdeen at 5pm means that it is difficult for groups competing in Aberdeen or further afield to get back to the ferry in time.

"Any further erosion of that timetable means they would have to stay overnight in Aberdeen. That adds to the cost and they would have to wait an extra day waiting for the next ferry sailing."

Isles’ future up for consultation

SHETLAND Islands Council is to launch its biggest ever island-wide consultation on the future development of the isles.

The Main Issues Report will go out to the public on 26 March, looking at issues such as where new housing should be built and the future of key sites in Lerwick.

The report will also examine economic development, ways of protecting and promoting shops and businesses, biodiversity, agricultural land, car parking and planning for the future as the islands’ population gets older.

The report gives a range of alternative options, identifying a preferred option, and then seeks public comments, with new ideas welcome.

Landowners are also being invited to provide planners with information on sites of over half a hectare that they would like to be considered as future development sites.

The council is especially looking for sites that may be suitable for housing, employment, retail or community uses over the next five to 20 years. Not all sites will be suitable for development, but it will help the planners to know where sites are available, they say.

The report may evolve into an annual survey influenced by the responses to this consultation.

Site survey information forms and details on the report are available at

Paper copies of the documents will be available to view during normal office hours at the SIC’s infrastructure services department, at Grantfield, in Lerwick; the Lerwick library; all SIC community work offices; and all leisure centres from 15 March.

The consultation will go on from now into May. Planners will be holding an information day on 27 March 2010 at 175 Commercial Street (the shop next to Boots).

An exhibition will take place at the Shetland Museum and Archives during April.

The council will also be visiting communities and working with local community learning and development workers to share information to ensure everyone knows what this is about and how important it is for everyone to join the debate.

Planning board chairman Frank Robertson said: "This is the most important public consultation for many years.

“The Local Development Plan is a significant factor in the sustainable economic development of communities.  The results will shape the future for development in Shetland over the next 20 years, and I urge everyone to join the debate and participate by giving their views on the issues and options, including the alternatives put forward in the Main Issues Report.”

Teen took out temper on two men

A SHETLAND teenager who dragged a man out of a taxi to beat him up and punched another man while he was driving a car was fined, at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday (Wednesday).

Seventeen year old Daniel Ewan, of 25 Ladies Drive, assaulted his first victim at Hoofields, in Lerwick, on 5 December.

The court heard that the young man was so frightened that he ran away and leaped into a passing taxi, only for Ewan to pull him out of the vehicle and punch him in the head.

The second assault took place in the car park at Tesco supermarket in Lerwick on 22 December, when Ewan was one of two passengers in the back of a car.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said the driver was not happy with his passengers’ behaviour and asked them to get out, but carried on driving when they refused. At that point Ewan punched him repeatedly in the head.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Ewan, who is going for a job interview at a local supermarket today (Thursday), had arguments with both his victims.

The first man had reported him to the police for a crime he had not committed, and the second man had started going out with his girlfriend, Mr Allan said.

He added that Ewan was “absolutely wasted” on alcohol while in the car, but had handed himself into the police voluntarily and pled guilty to both offences at the first opportunity.

Sheriff Graeme Napier fined Ewan £500 and ordered him to pay £300 in compensation, but then deferred sentence for two weeks for him to come up with “a sensible proposal” for paying the money.

Drinker regrets racial abuse

A SHETLAND man who called a barman “an English bastard” was fined £250 for racial abuse, at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday (Wednesday).

Thomas Leask, of 68 Sandveien, Lerwick, admitted a breach of the peace at the town’s Lerwick Royal British Legion on 6 December.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said the 22 year old had too much to drink and made his remarks when the barman refused to serve him.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Leask regretted his comments and harboured no anti-English feeling. He had since gone to the Legion to apologise, but had not managed to meet up with the barman yet.

Special constable accused of threats

A SPECIAL constable who faced losing his job after being accused of threatening a young woman in Lerwick town centre last summer was acquitted at the town’s sheriff court on Thursday.

Graeme Gerrard, of 38a Market Street, Lerwick, had been out celebrating his birthday on 23 August when an argument broke out between his girlfriend and another young woman.

Twenty year old hairdresser Debbie McQuiston told the court that Mr Gerrard, who is a supervisor with the fire brigade at Sullom Voe oil terminal, had stood directly in front of her and said he had wanted to “batter” her for ages.

Her story was backed up by 22 year old labourer James Hughson, who was standing nearby in the queue outside a baked potato shop on Commercial Street around 2am that morning.

Both witnesses said that when Mr Hughson tried to intervene, 38 year old Mr Gerrard told him that he would use his part time job with the police force to “fuck you up”.

However the special constable denied the charge of breach of the peace, saying that he had merely tried to calm down an argument between Ms McQuiston and his 23 year old girlfriend Amy Owen.

He said that it was Mr Hughson who had threatened him, to which he had made a gesture to show he was not frightened and walked away. “I did my best to diffuse a volatile situation,” he insisted.

The court heard that everyone had been drinking that night, but two police officers said that when they were approached by Ms McQuiston later that night she was “abusive and aggressive”. The police considered that she and Mr Hughson were both too drunk to make a statement that night.

Sheriff William Livingston said that there were inconsistencies in the evidence from Ms McQuiston and Mr Hughson and as the pair had spoken about the incident prior to giving statements to the police a few days later there was a chance their evidence could have been “contaminated” by cross collaboration.

He found Mr Gerrard not guilty of causing a breach of the peace because he had “very significant doubts” that he had made the threats.

Wills hits back after complaint

LERWICK councillor Jonathan Wills was interviewed by the Standards Commission yesterday (Wednesday) following a complaint made by Shetland Islands Council’s convener, vice-convener and three top officials, five months ago.

Dr Wills was reported to the commission after allegations he made following the conclusion of an internal council disciplinary investigation, which found “insufficient evidence” that the then chief executive Dave Clark had phoned Dr Wills in September last year threatening him violence.

Following the conclusion of the investigation on 14 October last year, Dr Wills alleged that he had been treated unfairly and the hearing had failed to follow due process.

He said he had been prevented from cross-examining witnesses or hearing and testing all the evidence. Nor was he allowed to legal assistance or the right to sum up.

Yesterday (Wednesday), prior to being interviewed in Lerwick, Dr Wills said he had waived his right to confidentiality, and said he had acted in the public interest when making his statements after the disciplinary hearing.

He added: “This was in breach of the Human Rights Act and amounted to a secret trial under arbitrary procedures, where the victim became the accused.

“A further breach occurred when the council leadership deliberately misrepresented the hearing's finding of ‘insufficient evidence’ as if it were an acquittal.”

Dr Wills also said council convener Sandy Cluness and vice convener Josie Simpson had no authority from the council to use public funds for using lawyers to prepare the complaint against him.

“I will be taking this matter up with Audit Scotland in due course.

“I am also asking the Ethical Standards Commission to investigate the conduct of the convener and vice-convener with regard to several related matters,” he said

The Standards Commission is tasked to ensure that ethical standards in public life are maintained in local authorities and other public bodies such as NHS boards.

The original complaint against Dr Wills was signed by Mr Cluness, Mr Simpson, former chief executive Dave Clark, deputy chief executive Hazel Sutherland and head of legal services Jan Riise.

Government defends ferry decision

THE SCOTTISH government yesterday (Wednesday) pledged to consult with local communities on possibly radical changes to NorthLink's winter service to the northern isles.

The move comes after the government dropped a bombshell on the isles on Tuesday when transport minister Stewart Stevenson imposed fuel saving changes to the current timetable without any prior warning.

Islanders yesterday said they were outraged by the treatment they had received from ministers.

The minister ruled that NorthLink's two ferries Hrossey and Hjaltland are to run on two engines rather than four, thereby saving fuel and adding an extra hour to the 14 hour trip between Lerwick, Kirkwall and Aberdeen.

They also want to find “further efficiencies”, and may be looking at removing one of the ferries from the service during the winter.

The government defended its actions by saying that these changes were needed to protect the overall ferry service.

It is understood that ministers wanted the changes to come in as of the beginning of April, but NorthLink persuaded them to delay it for one month.

A government spokeswoman said yesterday she wanted to make it clear that "officials from the government will certainly be consulting on any changes to the winter service and will be looking to meet ZetTrans and Hitrans at an early opportunity to start discussions."

But defending the minister's action, she added: "The contract allows Scottish ministers to vary the approved ferry services at any time.

"While consultation is an important element in establishing the needs of the local communities served by the ferry services, on this occasion Scottish ministers had to make a number of difficult decisions in order to protect the overall level of service provision within the current challenging financial constraints.

"NorthLink Ferries is now in discussion with key stakeholders in Shetland to agree a revised timetable."

Chairwoman of Shetland’s transport partnership ZetTrans, Iris Hawkins, said yesterday that meetings with the Scottish government were in the process of being drawn up, adding that she had the hope that some concessions could still be reached at "the 11th hour".

She added that the lack of consultation on this issue did not bode well for the forthcoming tendering process on the lifeline ferry service when the current contract runs out in 2012.

Urgent call for ferry meeting

A SHETLAND councillor has called for an urgent meeting with the Scottish government over their decision to change the NorthLink ferry timetable without consultation.

Lerwick North member Allan Wishart accused the government of treating the islands with contempt when it made a surprise announcement yesterday (Tuesday) that the two passenger ferries must run on two engines rather than four to save money on fuel.

The move will add an hour to journeys between Lerwick and Aberdeen that go via Kirkwall.

The government expects to save about £1 million on the northern isles route, which will receive a £38 million subsidy from Holyrood next year. NorthLink’s annual fuel bill is currently around £10 million.

Transport minister Stewart Stevenson also warned that “further efficiencies” were on the cards, including the removal of one of NorthLink’s two passenger ferries during the winter months.

Mr Wishart said the decision would “outrage” the Shetland community and demonstrated the government had no idea how important the lifeline ferry service was for the islands.

He also accused the government of using the Shetland route to save money to pay for the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) pilot in the western isles, a marginal SNP seat at Holyrood, which appeared to be losing money.

Greatest concern surrounds the threat to the winter service, where Mr Wishart fears that one ferry could be taken out of service reducing the islands to just three trips each way every week.

“That would be extremely bad news for Shetland and will cause outrage in this community. I don’t think this has been thought through, there is so much freight travelling on these boats during the winter months.

“You can’t tamper with these things because they have a far reaching impact on the community. There are social implications for passengers, but there are economic implications for local industry and employment in Shetland.

“The government seems to be showing a complete lack of understanding of how fragile this community and this economy is, and they really need to stop and think about what they are doing.”

Mr Wishart called for an urgent meeting with the government’s transport officials to explain how serious the issue was. “They must not proceed until the council and ZetTrans representatives have met them. I can’t emphasise enough how important this matter is.”


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