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Letters / An astonishing change in attitude (Toft pier redevelopment)

THE rebuilding of the Toft pier by Shetland Islands Council is a refreshing and apparent change of council policy. (Councillors back Toft pier redevelopment; SN,17/04/2019)This investment in a Shetland pier coming now after decades of neglect to SIC owned fisheries piers and harbours, will be warmly welcomed by the fishing industry.

However this astonishing change of attitude in the SIC’s development department comes a few years too late for Whalsay, as the Nergard company from Norway had to shelve plans to build two fish factories, one for pelagic and one for whitefish in the Whalsay harbour due to the director of development presenting a report on 20 Jan 2016 advising councillors to dismiss the proposal.

His report contained reasons for dismissing the development that were contrary to the information in a report commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, on the proposed project.

When a request was made to the director of development for a breakdown of the figures he used for reaching his estimated £20 to £40 million price for the pier extension required to allow the fish factories to be built, he replied that he had no figures to show, as estimate was the result of a conversation between himself and staff from SIC ports and harbours.

A pier extension for Whalsay, of a similar size and design was priced using SIC figures a year or two earlier at £15.5 million. Mairs quay at roughly double the size of the Whalsay pier proposal was built and opened in 2017 for £16.5 million.

The EU grant available for a fishing harbour extension at that time was from 40 to 60 per cent.

Had the development gone ahead the SIC could have been earning between one and two million pounds per annum from landing and harbour dues, and had the ferries department not dismissed a ferry terminal proposal that could have been included in the proposed development at a nominal additional cost, SIC ports and harbours could have earned nearly the same again in harbour dues with a larger ferry running on the Whalsay route.

Surely this proposed development encouraging international inward investment for the construction of fish factories should be looked at again by the SIC, perhaps this time in a more positive light, with more credible data presented to councillors for them to use in making their decisions regarding the economic future of Shetland.

Despite the SIC rejection of this proposed industrial development in the Symbister harbour, Whalsay companies have in recent years borrowed to make substantial investments in vessels for the fishing and salmon farming industries.

That investment in those industries results in providing jobs and supporting industry throughout Shetland.

The two fish factories could have provided a substantial amount into the economy of Shetland and would have provided jobs in the Whalsay harbour, which was classified in a Scottish government report as a fragile economic area, due in part to the lack of available shore based jobs.

If the Toft pier deserves development, why not the Whalsay harbour?

Moira Dally
On behalf of Whalsay Community Council