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Letters / Dismissed out of hand

I, like many others, am extremely disappointed but sadly not surprised regarding the SIC’s recent rejection of one of the most economically promising proposals Shetland has had for years.

 The decision not to invest in a new pier for Whalsay, in order to pave the way for a new fish processing factory to be built by Norwegian fishery group Nergard AS, is a huge loss not just for the future of Whalsay but for the wider Shetland economy and fishing industry.

Supposedly when SIC councillors made this decision it was based on an SIC report that comprised a couple of sheets of A4 which advised them bluntly to reject the proposal, giving vague justifications like the raising of “state-aid issues” in EU rules.

The recent Shetland News story on the matter (Plans for new Whalsay fish factory in doubtSN, 20/02/16) states that 13 per cent of all pelagic fish and two per cent of whitefish caught in Shetland waters are processed here. Then it says the SIC are worried about overcapacity.

That is ridiculous. There is huge potential here for increasing those figures and boosting the Shetland economy as well as the SIC’s coffers.

I am sure anyone who lives in Whalsay will agree with me when I say the isle has not been the same since the old factory shut. With the fishing industry going through a decent spell with new boats being ordered, is this not the time to be increasing Shetland’s income from our most abundant, traditional and renewable resource?

As Shetland more than pays its way in the UK, and so too does Whalsay within Shetland. With ever increasing centralisation, cuts, school closure plans and lack of investment is it any wonder people from the isles of Shetland are questioning if the SIC even wants them to remain viable communities?

Financially, times are hard with the recent budget cuts imposed on Shetland by Holyrood and the Conservatives in Westminster continuing their harsh austerity policies.

However it is not apparent whether the SIC even sought any other funding streams for this project. I get the feeling it was dismissed out of hand.

If the Shetland Charitable Trust can invest in wind farms then why not in a project, which will bring great benefit to Shetland and relies on our traditional industry? If there are “state aid issues”, what are they and how can they be overcome?

I challenge the SIC to explain, if they aren’t willing to invest in opportunities like this, with huge potential, what exactly is their long term strategy? What is their plan to stop depopulation of the isles? Do they even have one?

The predictable cries of “pay for it yourselves” are unfair considering how much Whalsay has contributed in tax over the years. Jobs are scarce in the isle and many have to undertake a tiresome and expensive commute.

Issues like these are one of the main reasons why I joined Wir Shetland.

A self governing Shetland would have the freedom and resources to invest in projects like this.

Not only that but I would hope the end of the SIC in its current form would lead to the end of the discrimination against rural areas. I hope more people will join us in trying to build a better Shetland.

Duncan Simpson
Membership Secretary
Wir Shetland