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Also in the news / Covid text scam, students ‘scunnered’, charitable trust reserves swell and more…

NHS Shetland has warned against scam texts people are receiving in the isles regarding being a close Covid contact.

The health board said not to open these links or the messages, which ask people to order a test kit.

“If you receive a message you are unsure about, please call our public health team on 01595 743340 for advice,” a spokesperson said.

“As a reminder, if you are a close contact, you will receive a message from ‘Test and Protect’.”

THE SCOTTISH Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to introduce an immediate £150 cost of living payment to support students.

Yesterday finance secretary Kate Forbes announced a £150 cost-of-living payment going to the majority of households, but students who live alone or share the rent with other students are exempt from council tax so will not receive the new payment.

The Lib Dems’ education spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “Students are scunnered to discover that despite rents and bills rocketing, they have been excluded from financial support.

“The finance secretary was warned about this in advance but seems to have ​ploughed ahead with her existing plans regardless.”

SCOTTISH salmon exports recovered to near-record figures in 2021, according to new figures released by the UK Government today.

Cementing its place as the UK’s biggest food export, salmon overseas sales increased to £614 million – up 36 per cent compared to 2020 and only marginally below the £618 million recorded in 2019.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “These incredibly encouraging figures demonstrate the global demand for our unrivalled farm-raised Scottish salmon and the resilience of our industry.”

THE VALUE of Shetland Charitable Trust’s reserves at the end of December stood at just over £499 million, new figures show.

Meanwhile the value of the trust’s investments rose by £50 million in the nine months up to 31 December. This was nearly double the budgeted gain.

The trust, which was set up in the 1970s to distribute money from the oil industry to the community, has increased its spending in recent years.

While the value of the trust’s investments continue to rise, warnings are repeatedly made about the volatile nature of the market.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has again called on government ministers to take enforcement against irresponsible gill netters after a photo of a young seal entangled and killed in discarded nets was widely shared.

He said the issue would feature in an upcoming meeting with the UK rural affairs secretary George Eustice.

“The images seen on social media of a young seal pup tangled up and killed by a discarded gillnet on the shores of Shetland are deeply distressing,” Carmichael said.

“They are a reminder of the real impact that the industrial gill netters in the open seas around Shetland have on our environment.

“Local fishermen would be the first to say that they often find local seals to be rather aggravating competitors for their catch. They know better than most, however, that our isles are all the richer for the ecological diversity that we are famous for and that this must be maintained.”

MEANWHILE Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is seeking further clarity whether a new funding scheme for fisheries would be open for EU based gill netters operating in the ‘Scottish zone’.

She has already been told that non-UK vessels would not be eligible but is seeking further clarification in a written response from rural affair secretary Mairi Gougeon.

Wishart said: “Speaking with the Shetland fleet I have heard some shocking stories of irresponsible and dangerous practices.

“Boats that provide a benefit to Shetland and Scotland should be given full priority in local waters.

“If we want to innovate and prepare the next fishing generation, we need to allow for accessible funding assistance.”

THE UK Government has announced a change to the frequency of auctions for funding of renewable energy projects through the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme.

The auctions will now take place every year rather than every two years. The change will take effect from March 2023 when the next CfD round opens.

The move was welcomed by Morag Watson, director of policy at industry body Scottish Renewables.

“By 2050 demand for electricity will have almost doubled, and the vast majority of that electricity must come from renewable sources if we are to meet net-zero,” she said.

“The Contracts for Difference mechanism plays a central role in facilitating that, and increasing the frequency of auctions is essential if we are to tackle climate change.”