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In brief for 21 October 2011

Quota cuts withdrawn

FISHING leaders have welcomed Europe’s decision not to impose an automatic 25 per cent quota cut for species where there is insufficient scientific data.

Shetland’s white fish fleet would have been particularly hard hit, as six of its top 10 species would have been affected by the cuts, including monkfish and megrim.

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Welcoming the decision, Scottish Fishermen’s Federation chief executive Bertie Armstrong pointed out that the decision had come too late to change current quota proposals for next year.

Mr Armstrong said: “This is a triumph of common sense and we welcome this announcement from the Commissioner to abandon the automatic quota reductions for data deficient stocks.

“It was a blunt instrument that was totally unfair in its implementation and we are pleased that the Commissioner has recognised the universal chorus of disapproval for the scheme.

“It is unfortunate, however, that this statement of intent has come too late to change the current quota proposals on the table for 2012, which includes large cuts for data deficient stocks such as megrim and monkfish.”

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RET questions

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott is to question the government next week about Friday’s announcement by infrastructure secretary Alex Neil that he would be extending the road equivalent tariff pilot to other Scottish islands.

Mr Neil was speaking at the SNP conference in Inverness when he made the announcement.

Mr Scott said he hoped this would lead to lower fares, but it raised more questions than answers.

“The government seems to have announced a policy but they can’t explain it, and I will have to ask Parliamentary questions to make it clear what they mean,” he said.

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“If the Scottish government are now proposing lower fares then that must be accommodated in the ferry tender to begin next June.

“RET so far has been a five year electoral bribe to the western isles, if that has now changed then so much the better.”

Sandness celebration

THE SANDNESS community will be celebrating the official re-opening of the local hall after 10 years of planning and raising funds, with a buffet dance featuring the Cullivoe Dance Band on Saturday night.

The hall has been closed for the past six months to upgrade the entrance and toilets, create a new clubroom, replace the plumbing and electrics and redecorate the building.

The £169,000 upgrade was funded with £21,280 capital grant from Shetland Islands Council, part funding from the council for the feasibility and design costs and a £144,000 grant from the Scottish government’s rural development programme. The rest of the cash was raised by the community.

Committee chairman Donald MacLeod said he was delighted with the new look hall, which is more comfortable, more flexible and more accessible.

He added: “The building was so cold before you could see your breath in the air, but that’s a distant memory now.”

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Rocktober

A SATURDAY night concert at Lerwick’s Islesburgh Community Centre will showcase the wide range of young talent in the Shetland rock scene.

Rocktober is the culmination of a Friday night session at Burra’s Bridge End Centre where a group of musicians will write songs to perform the following night under the guiding hand of tutors Bryan Peterson, Fraser Mouat, Stevie Hook and Gary Smith.

The band camp allows the musicians to experiment with different styles from indie pop to heavy metal, with bands including Automatic Chicken, Metcarpal Love, Organised Chaos and Comet Conspiracy.

The event has been organised by the Shetland Young Promoters Group with help from the council and Shetland Arts. Tickets for the alcohol free concert cost £4 on the door or from Shetland Box Office.

Mackerel threat

MACKEREL stocks could fall below safe limits by 2014 unless a deal on sustainability is struck with Iceland and Faroe on catching limits.

That is the view of Scottish fishing secretary Richard Lochhead following a meeting in Luxembourg with his UK and Irish counterparts.

The three governments have agreed to work together to pressurise the EU into imposing robust sanctions on the two island groups in response to their unilateral increase in mackerel quota for the past two seasons.

They have also agreed to continue the effort to reach a negotiated settlement, with talks continuing next week in London.

HSE call

TORY MSP for the highlands and islands Mary Scanlon has called on the Health and safety Executive to reconsider the plan to pass on costs to farmers.

This month it emerged the HSE were planning to charge organisations it investigated a fee of £750 to cover the cost of an inspection, and £133 an hour for sending letters and emails resulting from breaches in health and safety law.

Mrs Scanlon said: “I have written to the chief executive of the HSE, Geoffrey Podger, urging his organisation to reconsider these plans as the costs will impose serious financial strains on the farming community and all they will have at the end of it is a letter or an e-mail saying they have ticked a box.”

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