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Coronavirus / Development chairman warns community could ‘really suffer’ from unemployment in next couple of years

THE CHAIRMAN of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee has warned that unemployment could rise by 10 percentage points over the next couple of years.

Alastair Cooper said Shetland could see unemployment levels not experienced in the isles for a number of decades as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chairman of the local community safety and resilience board Alastair Cooper.Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper. Photo: SIC

The warning came in a discussion around Shetland Islands Council’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

While no exact figures are yet available, development director Neil Grant told councillors there had been a “quite considerable” number of local jobs displaced as a result of the pandemic so far.

The oil and gas sector has suffered, for instance, while jobs have been lost in the hospitality sector.

There are also over 100 jobs going in the North Mainland due to the closure of Scatsta Airport and Moorfield Hotel set to shut in September, but this is not connected to coronavirus.

Cooper said: “The problem that we have is the private sector in suffering at the moment.”

“We can expect 10 per cent or greater growth in unemployment in Shetland,” he added.

Cooper said he felt the worst could come in the next one to two years.

“I think the community will really suffer,” he added.

The North Mainland councillor, however, pointed to proposed projects like Viking Energy, the interconnector and the energy hub as ways jobs could be created locally in the coming years.