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News / Recreational trust appoints new chief executive

Businessman appointed to run leisure centres

SHETLAND Recreational Trust, which runs isles’ leisure centres, has appointed a business manager with “many years of senior leadership experience” as its new chief executive.

Steven Laidlaw, 54, will start in June in preparation for taking over from general manager James Johnston who will retire in August.

Johnston will initially work alongside the new chief executive, who will be preparing to lead the trust through a period of change.

As well as readying the trust’s eight leisure centres for life after the Covid-19 lockdown, Laidlaw will focus on maintaining the trust’s “success” in the coming years and said that “change is “inevitable”.

Laidlaw said he was excited to take on the role and was looking forward to the challenges ahead.

He said: “Change is inevitable, especially in these unprecedented times, I look forward to supporting the innovation and sustainability of the SRT while upholding an already excellent standard of customer service with the main aim of improving the lives of the people of Shetland through sport and recreation”.

New Shetland Recreational Trust chief executive Steven Laidlaw.

Mr Laidlaw, originally from Edinburgh, has 32 years of senior management experience.

He moved to Shetland in 2002 when he became manager of Safeway in Lerwick, quickly moving onto Hay & Co. During his time at the helm of the building supplies company he oversaw the successful transition to the Buildbase brand.

After four years in that role Laidlaw moved back to the central belt before returning to Shetland in 2012 to what was then the Lerwick Building Centre. He was the manager as LBC became part of the UK-wide Jewson network. He later had responsibility for the chain of Jewson stores across the North East of Scotland.

Laidlaw is currently general manager of the Streamline shipping group in Shetland. The logistics business has recently consolidated its operations by moving into one site at Holmsgarth.

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SRT chairman Bryan Leask said Laidlaw’s track record of managing change made him the ideal candidate to take over from Johnston, who has worked at the trust for 35 years.

Leask said: “We were looking for somebody to lead the trust through a period of change and deal with the impact of budgetary changes that are happening.

“Steven has a track record of leading organisations through significant changes and we are confident that his experience will serve the trust well as we plan for the future.

“His management experience will also help us prepare for reopening to the public once Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed in Scotland.”

Laidlaw’s recruitment follows a national campaign and video interviews by SRT trustees due to the coronavirus social-distancing restrictions.

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