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In brief for 3 February 2011

Fuel price survey

CONSUMERS relying on heating oil or bottled gas to heat their homes are being asked to take part in a survey being carried out by Consumer Focus Scotland.

The consumer group will be giving evidence to the Office of Fair Trading inquiry into the off grid energy market.

It is particularly keen to hear from vulnerable consumers who had difficulty heating their homes during the recent cold weather.

Consumers can send feedback on problems they have experienced with heating oil, LPG or other off-grid energy supplies to mail@consumerfocus-scotland.org.uk.

Housing fund

THE SCOTTISH government has created a new £50 million fund to finance affordable housing.

The new Innovation and Investment Fund should support the building of around 1,500 new homes across Scotland and release more than £100 million in additional investment.

The money will divided between the private sector, local authorities and housing associations.

Housing minister Alex Neil said: “This fund will stimulate creative ideas, fresh thinking and innovation to invigorate social housing across the country. We welcome proposals from across the private and public sectors that represent excellent value for taxpayers’ money.”

Family’s relief

THE FAMILY of 26 year old James Thomson, from Brae, have expressed the relief after settling a compensation claim over his death.

Mr Thomson died in March 2007 when an expanding foam canister exploded while working for the building company owned by his father Dennis.

This week the bereaved father won a £90,000 compensation claim against the company over the wrongful death.

On Thursday he issued a statement through his lawyer, saying: “I am very glad that the legal process arising from this tragic accident is coming to a close. The last four years have been very traumatic for our family. Our thanks go to Balfour + Manson for guiding us through the process.”

Discards

INTERNATIONAL scientists and fisheries groups are to work together to improve their assessment of North Sea fish stocks to try and reduce the practice of discards.
 
Scientific body the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and two fisheries regional advisory councils operating in northern waters are to establish regional task forces to help improve the quality of data used to make fish stock assessments.

The quality of scientific data has been one of the main criticisms of the unpopular quota system under the Common Fisheries Policy.
 
The move has been welcomed by the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and northern isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

Big stage

CLICKIMIN Leisure Complex are erecting their largest stage yet for the US southern gospel act Ernie Haase and Signature Sound’s concert on 9 February.

Organisers said people were travelling north from central Scotland for the concert and tickets were selling fast, with just 180 left of the 1,000 that went on sale.

Busy harbour

LERWICK harbour experienced a busier year than expected in 2010, the latest figures reveal.

Port chief executive Sandra Laurenson said: “There was growth in cargo, passenger numbers and in the pelagic sector in 2010, with activity overall exceeding our expectations. We’re forecasting a busy year across all sectors, with continuing growth – particularly in cruise tourism, oil and gas projects, and pelagic fish landings.

“Higher activity will be reinforced in the future by the ongoing development of facilities, underway or in planning.

“The value of recent investment is demonstrated in part by the fact that, while vessel numbers held steady in 2010, the port handled larger vessels, with a clear increase in tonnage of shipping and pilotage movements.”

Community councillors

THERE will be community council elections in Aithsting, Boddam, Skerries and Tingwall after candidates submitted nomination forms for 49 vacant seats following last November’s elections. Another 22 candidates will be appointed unopposed on 17 March.

Healthy working

SHETLAND is to receive £328,000 from the Scottish government as part of a national payout of £70 million towards integrating services provided for the elderly.

The government has launched a major initiative to integrate health and social care by making health boards, local authorities and the voluntary sector work more closely.

Public health minister Shona Robison said that in future councils and health boards should work more closely together under a ‘lead commissioning’ model, in order to provide better services for adults – particularly older people.

Link up

SCOTTISH and Southern Energy has signed a partnership deal with four Scandinavian utilities to look into laying an interconnector cable between Scotland and Norway.

The consortium includes Swedish firm Vattenfall, who have plans to build a wave farm off the west coast of Burra.

The study is part of an ambitious plan to create a North Sea supergrid connecting the UK with continental Europe and Scandinavia.

Shetland could become part of the grid that aims to transmit renewably generated electricity across Europe if the Viking Energy wind farm is built with a cable connecting the isles to Scotland.

SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said: “Increasing interconnection between networks is likely to be an important feature of the electricity industry in Europe as the drive to maximise supplies of secure, low carbon sources of energy increases over the next two decades.

“Scotland and Norway have rich and diverse natural resources from which to produce large amounts of electricity, and an interconnector could allow the potential of those complementary resources to be fulfilled by meeting the needs of customers across north west Europe.”

Hall upgrade
 
SHETLAND Islands Council has approved a grant of £100,000 towards the refurbishment of North Unst public hall, in Haroldswick.
 
Thursday’s services committee agreed to match £100,000 under offer from the European LEADER programme to upgrade the hall’s kitchen and anteroom/backstage areas.
 
The hall committee has raised more than £27,000 towards the overall project cost of £246,000. Work could begin as early as spring this year.
 
 
Scamnesty
 
TRADING standards officers are asking islanders to help them fight fraud by collecting scam letters during the month of February and handing them to the council.
 
The national initiative, labelled Scamnesty, will help trading standards officers gain new valuable information in their fight against the widespread practice that succeeds in conning one in 15 people nationwide.
 
Every year 3.2 million adults across the country fall victim to a scam involving deceptive mailings, phone calls or emails which are designed to do victims out of their cash. UK consumers lose a staggering £3.5 billion to scams every year.
 
Any scam letters received should be sent to Shetland Islands Council, Trading Standards Service, Infrastructure Services Department, FREEPOST SCO4317, Lerwick, ZE1 0BR.

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