I saw in the media last week that Shetland Islands Council’s director of development, Neil Grant, was concerned about losing EU funding (Isles’ ‘challenge’ to replace £20-30million of EU funding; SN, 26/10/16).
It would appear the SIC was not so concerned a few years ago when they dismissed the proposal to extend the Whalsay harbour in 2011, which alone will have lost them an estimated of £8M to £32M of EU grant funding.
That proposal was to construct an outer pier on the Symbister harbour, to berth the pelagic boats and allow the construction of a ferry terminal in a berth presently used by the pelagic vessels.
That outer construction being a fisheries pier could qualify for a grant of between 40 and 80 per cent from the European Fisheries Fund.
The proposal was unfortunately dismissed as the SIC officials favoured building a new harbour for ferries in the North Voe.
A more recent harbour proposal for Symbister, similar in design; was presented to the council as a Norwegian company wished to make a multi-million pound investment in fish factories for both pelagic and whitefish in the Whalsay harbour.
This had the potential to earn up to £2 million per annum for the SIC; the EU grant available had by then reduced to 40 to 60 per cent.
The director of development advised at the time that the proposal should be declined. Reasons given in the report for the negative response were;
“Information provided by the Scottish Government regarding European grant funding, raised questions and concerns about creating overcapacity in the sector in Scotland, and displacing existing capacity and jobs.”
“Whilst not costed, the initial ‘ball park’ internal estimates for the harbour developments required by this project are in the region of £20M to £40M.”
However the following quotes from a report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, (A Scottish Government organisation,) show different conclusions:
“Shetland’s waters are abundant with fish,” and, “There should therefore be enough available fish stocks in Shetland waters to support a new fish processing plant without having any significant raw material displacement implications for the plants already operating on Shetland.”
Also regarding the SIC report, I recently received the following answer from the director of development to a freedom of information request.
“You requested a detailed breakdown of the Harbour Estimate which I referred to in my report to Development Committee on 20 January 2016, DV-08-16-F.
“The reference I made was: ‘Whilst not costed, the initial ‘ball park’ internal estimates for the harbour developments required by this project are in the region of £20M to £40M.’
“I do not have any file record as to how I arrived at these ball park internal estimates, and therefore in terms of Section 17 of FOISA, the information is not held by the Council, but I recall this coming from an internal discussion with Council’s Ports & Harbours staff, taking into account other recently completed projects.”
Obviously the recently built pier in the Lerwick harbour for £16.8 million was not included in their discussion. That pier is twice the size and length as is required in Whalsay.
Had the SIC built the harbour extension allowing the fish factories to be built, thus creating jobs and industry to benefit the Shetland economy; the SIC could by now have been raking in a clear profit from harbour dues and benefit from the hundreds of thousands of tons of fish annually caught by a multinational fishing fleet presently working only a few miles off the Shetland coastline.