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Letters / Guesswork

The director of development guesses that it might cost £100,000 or more to administer the Islands Deal fund. (Project managing islands deal programme cost council more than £100,000 a year; Shetland News, 9 September 2021).

I hope he is basing his guesstimate on more reliable data, than he used when he advised councillors to dismiss the construction of two fish factories at Whalsay harbour; as can be seen in his reply to my email requesting his breakdown of costs:

“The reference I made was: ’Whilst not costed, the initial ‘ball park’ internal estimates for the harbour developments required by this project are in the region of £20M to £40M.’ 

I do not have any file record as to how I arrived at these ball park internal estimates, and therefore in terms of Section 17 of FOISA, the information is not held by the Council, but I recall this coming from an internal discussion with Council’s Ports & Harbours staff, taking into account other recently completed projects.” 

A previous SIC estimate for a similar sized breakwater extension was around £15.5 million. Mairs Quay, at roughly twice the size of what was proposed in Whalsay, has just been completed at Lerwick harbour at a cost of around £16.8 million.

I found it astonishing that the SIC development department should be so against the development of industry in Shetland that its director should go to such an extreme; to prevent the fish factories being built in Whalsay.

Perhaps committee chair councillor Alastair Cooper can shed some light on the issue, perhaps he can find a reason to explain why, and defend the actions of the director of development regarding the dismissal of the proposed development.

Councillor Cooper’s suggestion at the time that the construction of the fish factories could go ahead without the harbour being developed was not feasible.

The fish factories require a landing berth to receive the raw material for production and also a berth for shipping away the finished product in freezer containers; neither of these requirements could be met in the SIC neglected and congested harbour as it is.

This busy SIC harbour was inadequate at the time for the size of the Whalsay fishing fleet and SIC ferries and required enlargement at a time when 40 to 60 per cent grants were available from the EU for a fisheries related development, plus whatever could be acquired from the UK.

Now with the addition of salmon industry and cargo vessels, the Whalsay harbour is even more congested and inadequate and requires development even more; now that government grants may be scarce and difficult to find.

The projected harbour dues of one to two million pounds per annum, going into the harbour account from the fish factory development would have soon paid off what was left of the loan required after the available grants were subtracted from the breakwater extension construction costs.

Those grants were strangely never mentioned in the report from the director of development, advising dismissal of this excellent opportunity for the development of industry in Shetland.

If councillors are serious about making savings, perhaps they should consider cutting out some of their middle men or women; getting more than £90,000 each per annum, for apparently making guesses and presenting flawed figures, and then take a guess at the costs themselves. This would make considerable annual savings in SIC administration costs.

Could the councillors possibly guess any worse?

William Polson
Whalsay

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