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Letters / Flawed economics suck profits out of Shetland

I’ve been following many of your articles and readers’ letters since my return to Shetland in March.

Virus aside, the issues around the economy in its various guises and utilities dominate a great deal of discussion. Much of the discussion takes place, it seems, within the current very flawed economic paradigm, which ultimately sucks profit out of Shetland in many ways, including through the energy and communications utilities sectors.

This will not change as a consequence of Viking Energy, where the investment income will be undermined by continuing rises in the cost of energy, renewable or otherwise.

If we were to step outside the current economic paradigm and approach Shetland’s economy from sustainability principles and practices – which would take the social and environmental needs of the islands as equally important – it strikes me that huge sustainability gains could be made by adopting sustainable (as well as ethical) economic investment measures.

The combined public and private wealth of Shetland is not unsubstantial and if it was to be invested locally for the public good – rather than has been the case for private gain both within and outwith the islands – a more virtuous and self-sustaining economy could be the outcome.

First and foremost the SIC reserve and pension funds and the Shetland Charitable Trust funds could be invested more locally rather than through the FTSE (not in the likes of Viking Energy, which is far from locally owned, controlled and the lions share of its profits, like the energy through the inter-connector will flow south).

As John Tulloch has admirably pointed out in your letters page the energy sector, at least in the long term, is best served by tackling energy poverty in the islands. (The carbon neutral gas-powered station solution, although relatively short-term, is a better solution economically and environmentally than SSE’s ‘big wind’, although the profits from the gas power station, I assume, would also leave the islands.)

The private housing and food markets in Shetland are also both sources of huge economic problems, where in food, huge profits leave Shetland via Tesco and the Co-op. The same could be said of banking too.

The private rented (second and third) home sector in Shetland is nothing short of a scandal, where clear exploitation within the islands is rife. To add to this a boom in off island home ownership looks increasingly likely, one of the death knells of any community.

Ownership of telecomms/ broadband locally would also save the islands a fortune in the long term.

Can anyone explain to me why the SIC councillors and our Westminster and Holyrood representatives are not capable of coming together to research and developing a more sustainable approach to the Shetland economy based on its current combined public and private wealth?

As a postscript to the sustainable investment debate, any proposed potential investment of Shetland Charitable Trust funds into a local scanner for example is wholly inappropriate and wasteful.

Beyond a cost benefit analysis, no one has proven the case in terms of the health benefits. Half a million pounds would be better spent localising food production and improving diet, with much better and sustainable public health outcomes.

James J Paton
Lerwick