MORE affordable housing is a key pre-condition for Shetland to be successful in attracting new people to the islands in order to grow the local workforce.
Discussing a draft paper on Shetland’s development strategy for the next four years, the development committee heard from north isles councillor Alex Priest that housing in Lerwick could be more expensive than in Edinburgh.
“It actually cheaper to buy a flat in Edinburgh than in Shetland,” he told fellow councillors, quoting anecdotal evidence from people working offshore who had opted to settle on the Scottish mainland rather than in the isles.
Head of development, Neil Grant, responded by saying that the council was working on a five-year plan, involving the private sector, to “address the wider issue”.
Councillor Priest’s intervention came during a short debate of the SIC’s draft economic strategy which, among others, highlighted the aging population, the loss of public sector employment and the high living cost as major challenges for the years ahead.
On the positive side, the report lists Shetland’s high economic output, the low unemployment rate, the strong seafood sector and the ongoing benefits coming from the oil and gas sector; all resulting in an optimistic outlook in the private sector.
However, due to the nature of Shetland’s industries, many depending on export, the isles are deemed to be “particularly vulnerable” to changing trade condition and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Among the ambitions listed in the strategy paper are targets such as creating 250 new private sector jobs and enabling 95 per cent of all premises to access high speed broadband by 2022, as well as increasing primary processing of seafood while at the same reducing carbon emissions faster than the Scottish average.
The SIC will now consult with the private sector before the strategy comes back to the council for ratification later in the year.
The draft strategy can be found here.