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Letters / Why are properties empty?

Rita Smith of the Shetland Solidarity with Refugees group mentioned “While there is high demand for housing in central parts of the islands, she pointed out that in outlying areas and smaller islands there ‘must be hundreds of buildings that are empty and could easily be used’” (‘Isles could help ease refugee crisis’, SN 7/9/16).

Has Rita not considered why these properties are empty?

I list a few reasons:

1. No local employment prospects.

2. Very poor if any local bus and transport services.

3. Very poor GP service locally, if any.

4. Absolutely no local dental service.

5. No local access to social worker, health visitor, benefit adviser et al.

6. Local schools under constant threat of closure. Sadly SIC has a policy of absolute centralisation, so many local rural amenities are closing or being allowed to run down (community halls etc.).

Now just consider yourself a refugee, apart from the problems outlined above, you probably will not speak English. Is there a single GP, schoolteacher, social worker, counsellor, advisor or anyone local, who speaks your language on Shetland or especially in these outlying areas? The answer is no.

Can you reach the local shop without a car? Again the answer is no. Just how many refugees own a car?

I am wholly sympathetic to the plight of refugees, however, their problems will never be solved unless some of the people advocating help actually engage their brains. Not a forte of those who advocate rural settlement in outlying areas on smaller islands.

Now if the SIC actually helped these outer areas, restoring transport links, infrastructure, instead of endless centralisation to Lerwick, we could settle refugees anywhere on Shetland. Even in central parts as the high demands for housing and services would be considerable less. All areas, outlying and central, could and should be allowed to thrive.

Ian Tinkler