THE HIGH Court in Glasgow has lifted restrictions which prevented the press from reporting details of how the £47 million black fish landing scam at Shetland Catch was carried out.
Seventeen skippers from Shetland and north east pelagic trawlers had previously pled guilty to making false declarations of fish landings, and have been ordered to pay compensation worth £3 million. They are due to be sentenced later this month.
Shetland Catch has admitted assisting the skippers in making the undeclared landings between 2002 and 2005.
Following a legal challenge from a number of national media outlets, it can be reported that the scales at the Gremista based fish processor were set to underestimate the weight of fish landed.
Officials from the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency (SFPO) were viewing computer screens that gave a lower weight of fish than what was actually landed.
The proper weight was displayed on a screen in the company engineer’s room, which was not accessible to SFPA officials.
A SIXTEEN per cent increase in the basic salary for councillors in Scotland has been put on hold for another year after local government minister Derek Mackay decided not to implement recommendations.
The minister said he would now consider the recommendations of the Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee (SLARC) next year, ahead of 2013-14.
Under the recommendations the basic salary for councillors would rise from now £16,234 to £18,916 (75 per cent of the average Scottish salary). The convener of a small local authority such as Shetland was recommended to earn £44,137.
Mr Mackay said: “Against a background of unprecedented cuts to Scotland’s budget by the UK government and the need for continuing pay restraint across the public sector, I have decided not to implement any further recommendations of the 2010 review report at this time.
“Any increase in pay would put additional pressure on local authority budgets and I have decided that councillors’ pay will remain frozen in 2012-13.”
Shetland tops survey
Shetlanders have the best quality of life in the country, according to a Bank of Scotland survey.
Islanders have higher than average qualifications, earn more than people in other Scottish local authority areas, have a longer life expectancy and the majority describe themselves as fit and well.
Bank of Scotland economist Nitesh Patel said: “This year the Shetland Islands tops the Bank of Scotland Quality of Life Survey.
“The islands score highly relative to the average for Scotland on several indicators, such as health, life expectancy, employment, average earnings, school results and low crime rates.
“Even average house prices are relatively low in relation to earnings, highlighting that a high standard of living does not always come at a price.”
Promote Shetland is looking back at a successful year 2011 in which the agency managed to further establish its website www.shetland.org as the main port of call for online enquiries about the isles.
The council funded organisation, based at the Shetland Museum and Archives, said they also had accumulated a database of 14,000 Shetland fans.
Promote Shetland was set up in 2009 to help attract more visitors, but also new businesses and residents to the isles.
In 2009, the organisation’s activities included:
a major TV advertising initiative featuring naturalist Simon King;
the launch of the Shetland Brand Pack and its Proudly Supporting Shetland campaign;
the webcast of Lerwick’s Viking fire festival Up Helly Aa;
the successful Shetland Wool Week;
the use of social media outlets Facebook and Twitter to capture and retain customers
direct mail contact with an ever-increasing database of committed Shetland fans.
Oil and gas licenses
THE UK government has issued 46 oil and gas exploration licences, ten of which lie to the West of Shetland.
Surrey-based Hurricane Exploration plc was granted ten blocks half way between Orkney and Shetland.
These latest licenses are part two of the 26th round of oil and gas exploration licensing which was originally announced in October 2010 when 144 licences were awarded.
Energy minister Charles Hendry said: “Oil and gas remains crucial to the UK economy – contributing around two per cent to the country’s GDP. Our innovative licensing system continues to make the UK one of the most attractive places to do business.
“These further licences have been subject to rigorous examination, and we are now satisfied that initial exploration can go ahead.”
Cash for youth
Three Shetland youth projects are benefitting from government money distributed under the CashBack Youth Work Fund.
The projects are: Shetland Islands Council – Youth Service – Bridges (£2,641), Shetland Youth Information Service (£11,075) and the Yell Youth Café (£3,598).
Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said that since 2007 more than £44 million had been seized from criminals and redistributed to communities through sporting, cultural, community, youth and third sector organisations.
… and finally
Please don’t forget to participate in our Christmas Calendar Competition which closes on Thursday (5 January).
All the details can be found at www.shetnews.co.uk/feature.html and the answer sheet can be downloaded at