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Community / Councillor backs call for water safety policy

THE CHAIRMAN of the local community safety and resilience board believes Shetland Islands Council should work on creating a water safety policy.

The call from North Mainland councillor Alastair Cooper came following a presentation from Water Safety Scotland chief Michael Avril at a board meeting last week.

Avril, who also works for the RNLI, said the voluntary organisation is trying to encourage all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to implement a water safety policy.

Water Safety Scotland aims to reduce accidental drowning deaths in Scotland by 50 per cent by 2026.

Any water safety policy should link into health and safety and community planning, with suggestions that it should include reference to how the local authority provides “reasonable steps” to protect and manage council-owned water sites.

A water safety policy should also detail the provision of public rescue equipment as well as what signage is installed locally warning people of the dangers of water.

Water Safety Scotland said that Scotland has a disproportionate number of drownings per head than the rest of the UK.

Avril said people in the highest risk category tend to be males aged between 45 and 60.

“Anywhere there is water, there is a risk,” he told members.

Board chairman Cooper noted that in Shetland you are no more than three miles away from the sea at any one time.

He warned that “sometimes familiarity breeds contempt” when it comes to locals accessing the water.

“I think we should have a water safety policy,” the councillor said. “We need to coordinate our activity as such.

“I think it’s something we should be serious about taking forward. I can see the logic of what you ask of us as a local authority.

“I can’t commit today to it, but we should consider future activity in this regard and ask the local authority to embrace what we ask.”

Avril responded by saying that “Water Safety Scotland is more than happy to engage with Shetland”.

He said that water safety is especially important as 2020 will be Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters.

Alongside a host of other events, the Scottish Government-backed initiative will provide funding support for Shetland Boat Week 2020, which will be “bigger and better than ever with a variety of land-based activities, the best of local seafood and lots of opportunities to get on the water”.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021