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Community / Let there be light? Town Hall policy disappoints workplace charity

The SIC is flying the Shetland flag at half mast today (Friday) to mark International Workers' Memorial Day but Lerwick Town Hall will not be lit as in previous years. Photo: Courtesy of SIC

A CHARITY committed to improving workplace health and safety says it is “disappointed” that Lerwick Town Hall is not being lit up in purple for International Workers’ Memorial Day this year due to a change in council policy.

Scottish Hazards chief executive Ian Tasker said he was calling on trade unions to get the decision reserved.

Joyce Davies, whose father died in the James Watt Street fire in Glasgow in November 1968, said it “intensifies my pain and all of those who walk a similar path” in Shetland.

It comes after a new outside lighting system was installed at the town hall a couple of years ago where lights only turn on when the amount of natural light drops to a sufficiently low level in the evening.

This naturally causes issues when there are shorter nights in the summer.

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said the council had previously received complaints from people upset and disappointed that lights for their cause either did not come on or could not be seen.

Lerwick Town hall lit in purple to mark last year’s International Workers’ Memorial Day

This prompted a change in policy which was introduced last year.

“To avoid causing such upset and disappointment no requests for light up will be agreed to in the lightest months – April to mid August,” Sandison said.

Requests can be made to the council to fly a flag on top of the town hall, or light it up in colour to raise awareness for certain events.

For example in the past it has been lit up to mark the Poppy Appeal, International Epilepsy Awareness Day and to honour the Suffrage Movement.

International Workers’ Memorial Day is taking place today (Friday).

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It is a day of remembrance and action for workers killed, disabled, injured or made unwell by their work.

Previously the council has lowered the flag but also lit up the town hall purple.

Tasker welcomed that the flag will be lowered as usual this time around, but said he was disappointed his cause misses out on the light-up because the “day falls at the wrong time of year”.

Joyce Davies with Aberdeen Lord Provost David Cameron at Friday’s civic event held at the city’s workers’ memorial.

“Our whole campaign about turning Scotland purple is reacting to the wishes of, and comments from, those who have lost most, the death of a loved one at work,” he said.

“We would have thought some form of consultation before the policy decision was taken would have been more appropriate rather to than an email after the decision was taken, supposedly as a matter of courtesy.”

Instead of the town hall, Shetland Arts has now agreed at short notice to light up Mareel in purple tonight.

Davies said she very much appreciated Shetland Arts’ response but added that it would have been for the local authority to do so because the International Workers’ Memorial Day was a civic occasion.

She said that seeing the town hall lit up would have “meant so much to me and others”,and added that she felt “embarrassed” that her council was not marking the day in the same way other local authorities in Scotland did.

She added that a number of local authorities, including Aberdeen and Glasgow, were marking the day by holding a minute silence followed by a civic ceremony.

Davies has also pressed for a memorial stone or bench in Shetland, where people who have lost loved ones in the workplace can go to reflect.

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