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Community / UHA campaigner turns his attention to community safety board

A CAMPAIGNER seeking the inclusion of women in the main aspects of Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa says he will now raise his concern with the Shetland community safety and resilience board.

Peter Hamilton said he is changing tactics and will no longer make complaints about the local authority’s support for the town’s fire festivals to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Peter Hamilton during a protest outside Lerwick Town Hall at the of January. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Hamilton previously said he would lodge complaints – including to the local government ombudsman by 4 March – if talks on the inclusion of greater involvement for woman had not started.

Shetland Islands Council hosts a civic reception and lets the Up Helly Aa committee use the George V playpark in Lerwick for the burning of the galley, but it has always insisted that by doing so it was not in breach of any equality duties and had no role in influencing a change in the nature of the community festival.

Hamilton said that following a “helpful and productive” discussion with the chairman of the local health board, Gary Robinson, he will now request the safety board investigate Shetland’s very high occurrence of sexual violence incidents.

Hamilton has always maintained that there is a link between the statistics and the festival but no-one has ever produced any conclusive proof, and the high number of reported incidents could well have a variety of different reasons.

Explaining his decision to not to take his complaints forward to various organisations on the mainland, Hamilton said: “Anyone who looks at this will see Shetland Islands Council, and other local bodies, are in breach of the Public Sector Equalities Duty under the 2010 Equalities Act.

“As time went on I have been increasingly struck by the levels of xenophobic and misogynistic abuse those who have wanted change have witnessed and been subjected to on social media and elsewhere.

“By taking this and the Commission on Gender Stereotypes in Early Education’s Unlimited Potential report to the community safety resilience board, I now trust these concerns will also be considered properly by Shetland police and the director of public health.

“It may be that ultimately these matters need to be addressed at community planning level within the Shetland Partnership. That in turn could trigger further consideration of what needs to change in Shetland’s schools.

“It is deeply troubling to see how harmful discrimination has been normalised in the name of tradition, with future generations being indoctrinated, and the accompanying vile and divisive nonsense.”

He added: “The decision to change my approach has not been an easy, as there is a degree of urgency involved where the need to prevent harm is clear.

“And of-course women and girls should have the freedom to join in on their community festival on the same basis as men and boys.

“Equally anyone should feel free to raise appeals south when they think things are not being dealt with properly in Shetland.”

Due to the council elections in early May the next meeting of the Shetland Community Safety and Resilience Board, which brings together the council, the isles’ emergency services as well as NHS Shetland, will be held on 29 June.