In brief for 28 September 2011

OFT confirms fuel inquiry

THE OFFICE of Fair Trading has confirmed that it is undertaking “desk-based research” on petrol prices on all Scottish islands.

Following a meeting between Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and OFT representatives in Edinburgh on Tuesday, a spokesman has now specified the organisation’s next steps.

He said: “An objective is to determine how fuel price differentials have moved since the last detailed reviews in 2000/1.

“This will help inform what further action, if any, in this area may be appropriate.”

The OFT has not committed to a timeframe for this research.

 

SIC accounts “healthy”

SHETLAND Islands Council’s finances during 2010/11 remained healthy despite overspending and the reported problems with accountancy processes.

The accounts reveal that the debt free local authority had reserves of £268 million on 31 March this year, a reduction of just £5 million compared to last year despite a draw from reserves to the tune of £31.2 million.

Meanwhile the council’s pension fund has increased by £24 million during 2010/11to £251 million, supporting 5,531 members.

The accounts also reveal the number of employees earning more than £50,000 per annum has decreased from 133 in 2009/10 to 131 in 2010/11.

Top earner in the local authority is chief executive Alistair Buchan who received £137,100, including £18,800 as benefits other than cash, between 5 July 2010 and 31 March 2011.

Other top earners were executive director for education and social care Hazel Sutherland, who also was the acting chief executive for five months between Dave Clark’s departure and Mr Buchan’s arrival (£94,350), former executive director for infrastructure  Gordon Greenhill (£78,300), as well as head of schools Helen Budge and head of legal and administration services Jan Riise (£73,000 each).

 

Bluemull disruption

Due to a funeral, ferry services on the Bluemull Sound between Yell Unst and Fetlar will be disrupted on Thursday.

The normal timetable will be in operation until 9.45am after which an amended timetable will be in operation. The service will return to normal after 1.45 pm

Details can be found at: http://www.shetland.gov.uk/ferries/news.asp

 

Bowel cancer screening

SHETLAND has one of the highest uptakes in Scotland in the national bowel cancer screening programme.

Since October 2009, 60 per cent of men and women between 50 and 74 in the isle have taken up the offer of screening using a home-based kit.

Bowel cancer is one of Scotland’s most common cancers, with 4000 people diagnosed each year and 1,600 people dying from the disease. The screening programme aims to detect cancer at an early stage.

Public health consultant Dr Susan Laidlaw said: “It is particularly good to see that men are doing the test as this is the first cancer screening programme that has included men; whereas women have been attending for breast and cervical cancer screening for many years.”  

More information on the screening programme can be found at: www.bowelscreening.scot.nhs.uk 

 

Lowest depression rates

SHETLAND has recorded the lowest percentage of people taking anti-depressants, after the Scottish government announced their use was on the rise throughout the country.

The government estimates that 11.3 per cent of Scots aged over 15 take anti-depressants every day, but in Shetland the figure is 8.3 per cent.

Last year 4.6 million anti-depressants were prescribed throughout Scotland, up 350,000 on the previous year.

 

Up Helly Aa rated

UP HELLY Aa has been chosen as one of the world’s top 1,000 “must see” sights, by travel guide The Lonely Planet.

The guide’s publishers have compiled 100 top ten lists, with the Lerwick fire festival rated as one of the world’s most entertaining parades.

The festival features alongside Stonehenge, the Grand Canyon, the Taj Mahal, Babylon, Pompeii, Skara Brae, Loch Ness, Edinburgh’s Scott Monument and the northern lights in Norway.

 

Voodoo doll teacher

A FORMER teacher from Shropshire who was struck off the teaching register for threatening pupils this week with black magic is said to have moved to the Shetland Isles.

Roslyn Holloway admitted six charges of professional misconduct while teaching children with special educational needs at a school in Telford.

Ms Holloway did not attend the hearing of the General Teaching Council, which was told that she pulled hair from one pupil and wrapped it around the arm of a voodoo doll, and a pupil would drown if a voodoo doll was dropped in water.

She had also used offensive language towards pupils and failed to disclose a caution for battery in 2009.

 

North Sea interconnector

FOUR energy companies have joined forces to apply to lay a huge interconnector under the North Sea between Scotland and Norway.

The 350 mile long interconnector would link Peterhead with the west coast of Norway, though a landing point there has yet to be identified and be able to transmit 1.4 gigawatts.

NorthConnect, the company behind the application to National Grid Transmission,  is jointly owned by Agder Energi (AE), Lyse, Vattenfall and SSE Interconnector Limited, a subsidiary of Scottish & Southern Energy.

The company says that an interconnector will allow the UK and Scandinavia to level out variations in output of electricity from the massive new renewable generation projects being developed on both sides of the North Sea.

Board chairman Odd Øygarden said: “We are sure that there is a real requirement to more closely link the electricity markets of Scandinavia and Great Britain together as this will bring benefits in terms of security of supply, deployment of additional renewable generation and more efficient generation in both regions.

“The NorthConnect interconnector will play an important role in delivering these important benefits.”

 

MPs back supergrid plan

THE HOUSE of Commons energy select committee has thrown its weight behind plans for a North Sea supergrid to connect offshore wind farms with the National Grid.

The committee, chaired by Tory MP Tim Yeo, has said that the government must get involved in developing the grid, not leave it to the private sector.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond is already backing international efforts to develop a supergrid, which could include an interconnector to Shetland if the Viking Energy wind farm gets the go ahead.

A hub is being planned in the Moray Firth which could link the Shetland cable to the rest of a grid, which itself could link the UK to the whole of Europe.

Mr Yeo said the offshore grid would avoid an “army of pylons” crossing the country to transmit electricity from individual offshore projects.

He said it would be worth the enormous cost of the investment to ensure the country’s electricity supply in the future was secured.

 

Oil production falling

NORTH Sea oil production fell below one million barrels per day for only the second time in the past 30 years this summer, according to recently released figures.

During June the UK pumped out 984,000 barrels of oil per day, down from 2.7 million in 1999.

Aberdeen University’s professor of petroleum economics Alex Kemp said that the last budget, which raised tax on oil producers’ profits, has led to a decline in investment in the area that was likely to mean around three quarters of the reserves in the region would remain untapped.

Professor Kemp is one of the keynote speakers earmarked for the Dynamic Shetland energy conference to be held in Lerwick on 16 and 17 November.

The conference has been organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Shetland islands Council to help attract the renewable energy industry into the isles, including marine support for the growing offshore wind sector.

Professor Kemp has helped the council with a study of the future potential of Sullom Voe harbour and has called on Westminster to introduce a decommissioning trust to help the industry with the £20 billion cost of dismantling offshore infrastructure.

He said: “We have a stalemate situation that is harming activity levels on the UK continental shelf.”

 

Hurricane tests Whirlwind

OIL company Hurricane Exploration has returned to the Whirlwind exploration well west of Shetland after suspending tests last year due to the weather.

The drill test will take 40 days to find out if the reservoir has a commercial flow rate and to rate the fluid type, after the presence of oil was confirmed last autumn.

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