FIRST minister Nicola Sturgeon has promised the Scottish government will help find a “satisfactory outcome for all parties” in the dispute over the future of the Lerwick firm HNP Engineers.
Last month the company, which employs 16 people, asked Shetland Charitable Trust’s property arm SLAP for more time to vacate the site after it was threatened with legal action to evict them.
It follows a long running dispute between the 50 year old business and its landlord, which is selling the site on Lerwick’s Commercial Road to Chester-based property firm Cityheart to build a student accommodation block for the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).
HNP want until the end of 2016 to be able to convert a former warehouse belonging to Streamline Shipping Group at Lerwick’s Lower Blackhill industrial estate into a new home for its marine engineering business.
In the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott used First Minister’s Questions to invite Sturgeon to step into the row.
Scott asked the first minister: “Would she be prepared to speak to the UHI or contact the UHI to make sure the timescale for that development means that the engineering business has enough time to move to the new premises they are currently planning.”
Sturgeon replied: “I will be very happy to make sure that officials make contact with all relevant colleagues in Shetland including the University of the Highlands and Islands to establish the current context and provide any advice and assistance that we can to help secure a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved, including the company Tavish Scott has mentioned and I will be happy to ask the minister concerned to meet with Tavish Scott to discuss what more can be done.”
HNP managing director Ian Walterson thanked Scott for his intervention, saying he had been very supportive in trying to find a positive outcome for all parties.
Walterson explained that he hoped to be able to move as quickly as possible, even by the end of September, but it would depend on the availability of builders to carry out the necessary conversion work.
“We have to get builders in to do some completion work to the building and builders have their own timetable and might not just be readily available,” he said.
“Trying to be realistic we have asked to have until the end of this calendar year, but at the same time we want to move as quickly as we possibly can and if we can do it by the end of October, or even September, that would be splendid.”
Walterson said that it had been fortunate the Streamline building had become available as it would take much longer to build new premises, forcing the company to close its doors and issue redundancy notices.
SLAP chairwoman Susan Groat said last month that the deal with Cityheart could be jeopardised if HNP fail to move from their current premises this summer.
Last month they sent the company a legal letter saying they would apply for a court order to recover possession unless HNP vacated the site by 28 May.