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Council cuts to hit industry

SHETLAND’S local economy is set to take a direct hit from cuts in local government spending during the next financial year.

Councillors will today (Tuesday) discuss proposals to slash Shetland Islands Council’s economic development budget by £2.5 million, with the biggest impact being felt by the tourism industry.

The SIC’s development committee is being asked to accept a 24.6 per cent cut in its budget from almost £10 million to just under £7.5 million

The savagery of these cuts will be eased by an extra £1 million expected to be carried forward from this year. An administrative mechanism could also allow extra money to be allocated on the basis of expected underspending.

Almost one third of the budget is spent on core funding for organisations such as NAFC Marine Centre, Shetland Seafood Quality Control, the Shetland Shellfish Management Order, Shetland Amenity Trust, social enterprise COPE and Shetland College’s outreach service.

Fisheries and aquaculture will see a 16 per cent cut, with just £1.2 million available for loan and commercial funding. General industry faces a 25 per cent cut down to £797,000, of which £175,000 is already allocated for projects including the Fetlar pier, the new abattoir and the fibre optic cable.

Agriculture is looking at a 40 per cent reduction to just £485,000, but tourism is worst hit with a 59 per cent fall from £1.4 million to £580,000, of which three quarters are already earmarked for projects including the Sumburgh Head development, Scalloway museum, Old Scatness, Fetlar’s Brough Lodge and Sandwick’s Sandsayre pier.

Marketing and promotion is down 31 per cent, general industries have fallen by 40 per cent and the energy budget is reduced by 28 per cent. Events including the 2010 Hamefarin, 2011 Tall Ships Race and the food festival are going to lose 16 per cent.

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