In brief for 13 October 2011

Hjaltland Seafarms' two new workboats Curlew and Crusader before they left Norway, where they were built.

New salmon boats

SHETLAND’S largest seafood company Grieg Seafood Hjaltland has announced the delivery of two new workboats to service sites off the Lunna peninsula.

The Crusader and Curlew were designed and built by Bergen Group Skarveland in Norway at a cost of £900,000.

Managing director Michael Stark said: “The workboats have been purpose built to our exact specifications. We have been able to stipulate deck layout, crane position, lifting capacity, engine capacity and boat mobility, to ensure that they meet with our current and future requirements.


“The boats will improve working conditions for our employees and, at the same time, help us maintain and develop the exacting farming standards that we have developed over the years.”

Grieg Seafood Hjaltland claims to be the largest private sector employer in Shetland, supporting between 185 and 200 jobs.


School closures delayed

SHETLAND Islands Council has delayed the proposed closure of primary schools in Uyeasound and Burravoe until after the Christmas holidays.


The decision comes as a result of Scottish education secretary Mike Russell failing to rule on the council’s decision to close the schools, after calling the matter in on 23 June.

The following month Mr Russell announced a year long moratorium on school closures while he established a Commission on Rural Education (CRE).

On Thursday the CRE opened a consultation on the future of rural schools that will run until 12 January.

More information on the call for evidence and the commission is available at The Call for Evidence questionnaire is available at www.commissionruraleducation.org.



Extra Up Helly Aa ferry

NORTHLINK is laying on an extra sailing from Aberdeen to Lerwick n Saturday 28 January next year to cater for expected demand ahead of the 2012 Lerwick Up Helly Aa.

The move follows the company’s decision to schedule its nine week dry dock period for its three ferries on 23 January, during which Shetland will rely on a single ferry operating every other day except Saturdays when there will be no ferry at all.

With the fire festival attracting an ever growing number of visitors to the islands, NorthLink have said they will run a day time ferry leaving Aberdeen at 10am on 28 January arriving at Lerwick at 8pm, then departing Lerwick at 10pm to arrive in Aberdeen at 8am the following day.


NorthLink profits

FERRY operator NorthLink made a profit of £1.4 million last year, down from £2.3 million the year before.

The company’s 2010/11 financial statement was published on Thursday, revealing a four per cent increase in freight, a one per cent increase in passengers but a three per cent decline in car traffic.

The government grant last year rose from £34.4 million to £36 million, and income from fares and other sources increased to £25.1 million from £23.8 million. The company paid a £1 million dividend to the government.


The company achieved almost 100 per cent on all its targets, including punctuality and reliability and received a ‘healthy living’ award from the Scottish government.

The financial statement can be read here.


Help for first time buyers

FIRST time house buyers could benefit from an extra £4.65 million pumped into the Scottish government’s Open Market Shared Equity scheme (OMSE) to help people on low incomes onto the housing ladder.

The government claims to have already helped 5,600 people buy their first home, and says the extra cash will help a further 250 households nationwide.

The OMSE scheme allows people to buy between 60 and 80 per cent of a home, while the government funds the remainder through an interest free equity stake. The money can be repaid at any time, or as a proportion of the sale price if they move.

More information is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/LIFT


Fishy questions

SCOTTISH Tory MEP Struan Stevenson is raising concerns about proposed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, which has just got seriously underway.

He said fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki said the EC’s lawyers had said it could be breach treaties to pass powers over fisheries back to member states.

Mr Stevenson, who represents the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, also suggested the introduction of an international trade in quotas could see wealthy Spanish fishing companies buying up all of Scotland’s quotas, which could be set for 15 years.

Finally he questioned the proposed ban on discards, asking why the EC still calls undersized or out of quota fish “illegal”. He said: “These questions are all crucial to the effective working of an improved Common Fisheries Policy, and we on the fisheries committee look forward to receiving swift responses to them.


“If our legal advice differs significantly from that of the commission this is a debate that could end up in the European courts.”


No boundary change

THE NORTHERN isles constituency held by Alistair Carmichael MP for the Liberal Democrats is to be protected during sweeping changes to electoral boundaries in Scotland.

The Boundary Commission for Scotland has proposed reducing the number of Scotish MPs sitting in Westminster from 59 to 52 to iron out discrepancies in population.

The northern and western isles have been exempted from rules that say constituencies should contain between 72,810 and 80,473 voters.

A final report on changes will not be made for two years.