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Also in the news / Industrial action, heritage conference, highly protected marine areas and more…

Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL

SUMBURGH and other airports in the Highlands and Islands could be affected by further industrial action after firefighters and security staff organised in the Prospect union voted for action.

Shetland’s airport as well as six others operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) will already close for three days next week due to strike action by Unite members.

In a statutory ballot 71 per cent of Prospect members have now voted for strike action with 84 per cent voting for action short of a strike after overwhelmingly rejecting a five percent pay offer from HIAL.

The union warned that strike action and action short of a strike is likely to cause significant disruption across the remote and rural communities served by the airports, adding that it fully supports Unite members in their campaign.

Prospect negotiations officer Jane Rose said: “Our members don’t want to go on strike, they live in these communities, and they understand the impact action will have on families, friends, local business, and tourism.

“Prospect will be meeting again with HIAL in the coming days but unless they move quickly to deliver a meaningful and fair offer on pay and terms and conditions they will create a spring of continual disruption for customers and visitors.”

MEANWHILE the EIS union has rejected a new pay offer for teachers in Scotland – meaning future strikes will go ahead.

The Scottish Government said the proposed deal – the fifth offered to unions – would have meant an overall increase of more than £5,000 over two years for the 70 per cent of classroom teachers who are at the top of their main grade pay scale.

The offer included a six per cent increase in 2022/23 for staff earning up to £80,000, with a 5.5 per cent rise in 23/24. Nearly £5,000 was offered for all those earning in excess of £80,000 for this financial year, with £4,400 the following year.

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But EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley said: “This is another inadequate offer to Scotland’s teachers, which was unanimously rejected by the EIS Salaries Committee earlier today.”

SHETLAND Amenity Trust and Shetland Heritage Association are jointly hosting a heritage conference at the museum in Lerwick early next month.

Shetland’s Heritage – Shaping the Future Together is a one-day event aimed at anyone who would like to become more involved in heritage initiatives as well as people who are already working in the sector.

Guest speakers Neil Ogilvy from Museums Galleries Scotland and Audrey Wilson from the Scottish Council on Archives will share their experiences of supporting heritage networks and community-based projects through Scotland.

Joint organiser Eileen Brooke-Freeman of Shetland Amenity Trust described the conference as “the first step in engaging and re-engaging with a Shetland-wide community”.

“We hope that as well as existing volunteers, folk new to Shetland and those who haven’t had the opportunity to interact with their local culture and environment, come along to share their ideas and discover more about the wide-ranging opportunities and benefits of engaging with heritage,” she added.

The event is free, but booking is essential through Shetland Museum’s Little Box Office.

SHETLAND MSP Beatrice Wishart has called on local people to share their views on the proposal of the designation of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in Scottish waters.

The Scottish Government proposal of designating ten per cent of Scotland seas as HPMA by 2026 has already sparked strong opposition from fishing interests.

She said: “HMPAs was a key policy for the Greens to join the Scottish Government and needs to be thoroughly scrutinised to ensure that damaging blows to the fishing sector are avoided.

“The voices of those on the seas every day should be heard. Spatial squeeze is a real concern and making 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas areas that cannot be fished could greatly exacerbate the problem.

“Shetland’s fishing sector directly, and indirectly through the supply chain, is a major contributor economically and socially to the local economy, as well as to Scotland’s economy.

A government consultation on the proposal is open until 20 March and can be accessed here.

TWENTY funeral support payments totalling over £30,000 have been made to local people on low income during the first nine months of the current financial year, until the end of December 2022.

Introduced in September 2019, the Scottish Government’s help towards to cost of a funeral is available to people who get Universal Credit, tax credits and certain benefits and are responsible for paying for a funeral.

The average payment in the 2022/23 financial year was £1,835 and can be used towards burial or cremation costs and other expenses like funeral director’s fees, a coffin or flowers.

Minister for social security Ben Macpherson said: “When low income families are struggling to deal with a bereavement, the last thing they need, particularly during this cost of living crisis is to face the added worry of paying for the costs of a funeral.”

Information on which benefits are currently administered by Social Security Scotland can be found here.

APPLICATIONS are now open for grant from the Zetland Educational Trust (ZET) which administers a number of endowments held to support education initiatives.

The trust, whose funds are disbursed by Shetland islands Council, gives out grants of between £200 and £2,000 to allow projects to happen that wouldn’t otherwise be able to happen.

Applications are particularly welcomed in the categories of special equipment promotion of knowledge of Shetland, educational experiments and research.

More information including how to apply, can be found at the Zetland Educational Trust webpage.

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