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SSPCA inspector Ron to retire early

SSPCA inspector Ron Patterson with the last hedgehog to be cared for at the Shetland wildlife rescue unit, which closed on Friday. The hedgehog returns to Trondra this week. Photo Shetnews

SHETLAND’S senior inspector with animal welfare charity Scottish SPCA is to leave his post this summer after 23 years.

Ron Patterson made his decision after the charity ordered the closure of the wildlife rescue unit in Gott without advance warning.

The 63 year old had planned to wait another two years before leaving, but when he was told the Gott unit was to close he asked if he could leave sooner.

“It was when I heard that I decided to try and retire early, it came as such a shock,” he said.

The unit was officially closed last Friday, but Patterson will continue to use the office until he stands down at the end of July.

SSPCA chief executive Mike Flynn announced in December the unit would be closed, saying the small number of animals it cared for could not justify the £13,000 annual running costs.

He insisted rescued animals from Shetland should be sent to the charity’s new £3.5 million national wildlife rescue centre at Fishcross, Clackmannanshire, as happens everywhere else in Scotland.

However the decision aroused a storm of protest in the isles, not least from the environmental watchdog SOTEAG that is responsible for keeping Shetland prepared for an oil spill.

The SSPCA wildlife rescue unit has been closed after 20 years of active service. The SSPCA has yet to explain how it plans to deal with oiled birds in the event of an oil spill. Photo Shetnews

The £119,000 wildlife unit was built in the aftermath of the Braer oil spill with a donation of £84,000 from the Sullom Voe Association, which represents the oil industry and Shetland Islands Council.

The unit forms a key part of the islands’ oil spill response plan, with facilities to pre-wash oiled birds and a large car park to “bolt on” extra facilities in an emergency.

SOTEAG chairman Mike Richardson called the SSPCA decision “a retrograde step”, and voiced his “dismay and concern” at not being informed or consulted.

Flynn will attend the annual meeting of SOTEAG’s wildlife response co-ordinating committee on Tuesday morning to explain the SSPCA’s alternative plans for dealing with oiled wildlife in Shetland.

Meanwhile Patterson and his wife Margaret are planning to stay in Shetland, where they have two sons and four grandchildren.

“I was a shepherd in the Borders before I came here in early 1991. They were having problems finding someone to work in Shetland and were looking for someone with a farming background,” he said.

“It wasn’t long before the Braer happened and I was really thrown into the deep end, which was when the wildlife unit was built. It had already been planned, but we used the Braer experience to help design it.

“It’s a varied job, one day you could be dealing with a dog, the next day a bird or a cow, you never know what’s around the corner.

“On the whole I’ve enjoyed it. I’m glad I’ve done it, but now I’m looking forward to retirement from the SSPCA and looking for a part time job and having more time to indulge my hobby of photography.”

Assistant inspector Louise Sales will continue in her post while the SSPCA advertises for someone to replace Patterson as inspector.