Shetland Issues

Shetland Issues

Under this heading, I seek to address a range of this relevant topics to the current time and future of Shetland.

SIC |The Young | Elderly | The Disadvantaged | Health Care | Industry | Transport

Shetland Islands Council

I am proud to have served on the last Shetland Islands Council, one which “balanced the books” for the first time in a generation, returning our local authority to a position of stability and out of the negative scrutiny of national government watchdogs.  The outgoing council also modestly solved many of the legacy issues that had originated in earlier times.

On a national level, this has enabled the SIC to stand its ground and develop respect, trust and a good reputation, which assists greatly in the many challenges austerity has brought, and will continue to bring.

This work has been discreet and achieved by officers and councillors, working together, in a moderate and purposeful manner and this is the kind of council I would wish to be part of again.

During my time on the previous council I served on various committees, making a positive difference wherever possible.

Development Committee, which has supported our local industries, college education and pushed on the development of broadband infrastructure where government or commercial investment is absent. For the next council, it will be a clear goal to seek local solutions to providing superfast broadband by whatever means, as Scottish government measures to provide service for all come up against the challenges of our local geography and widely dispersed population centres.

Harbour Board, which continues to benefit Shetland as a whole through the revenues raised through traffic to the Sullom Voe Terminal. The Harbour Board has also overseen efforts to maintain our ageing rural piers, while also bringing forward a firm business case to improve the fish market in Scalloway to a modern and fit-for-purpose standard and to complement the new similar facilities inLerwick. This is a project which the new council will need to support, in view of the importance of fishing to our local economy and the continued potential of much higher landings through Shetland.

Audit Committee, which stands apart from other council committees in that it sits in oversight of much of the council’s business, aiding officers in scrutiny of all the councils performance against national standards.

Social Services Committee,  now deprecated as responsibilities for adult social care have passed the integrated board with NHS Shetland. There is still a need for all new council members to keep an overview of council run care services to support staff and ensure that the needs of our ageing populations are saved by the new integrated board.

Community Issues. Where possible and when asked I have worked to resolve issues for constituents in a discreet and sensitive manner. This remains a key duty for all councillors.

 

Industry

Fishing

The fishing industry was, is and will always be one of the keystones of the Shetland economy. The outgoing council engaged well with the industry, through quarterly meetings with industry representatives, development of a business plan to refurbish and improve the Scalloway fishmarket and retention of the business loan scheme that has enabled many local businesses to form and to grow. The SIC also continues to hold quota, or total allowable catch, the rental of which is essential for vessels operating in our unique mixed fishery. It is this kind of direct involvement with industry that has been, and should remain to be, a key priorty fo the SIC, until or unless something better comes along. With the potential exit from the Common Fisheries Policy looming at a time when our industry is prospering, support of our industries representatives is essential.

 

Aquaculture

Shetland has become a national keystone of the aquaculture industry in all its forms. Recognition of this is another objective view that the future SIC should retain and promote, while seeking to protect and manage our inshore waters through the unique powers our forbearers gained with the ZCC Act.

Oil

With new developments to the west of Shetland soon to be pursued, and those already developed likely to be around for decades to come, it is essential for the SIC to continue to engage with the industry wherever possible, to promote Shetland as an asset to be utilised and to seek to protect our inshore industries from any eventuality that could happen in the wild waters that have become the new frontier for inevitable oil extraction.

 

Young People

Opportunity

Shetland remains a safe place to grow and to learn, and it is the SIC that can continue and improve this nurturing environment by ensuring that our young people have access to facilities, education and opportunities. Transport, broadband and youth facilities are keystones in the lives of young people and we need to continue support of activities and technology that are essential to giving young people in Shetland equal access to that of their peers on the mainland and overseas.

Education

The requirements of delivering education in all its forms in our remote and dispersed geographic setting is a continued challenge. It is not one that is fully appreciated by the Scottish Government. This will be a significant issue for the next council, as advances in educational delivery must stay ahead of the approaching cuts in council budgets that are forecast at Scottish and UK levels.

Our college education sector has also undergone massive change and reduction in funding and it is essential to learners of all ages in Shetland that tertiary education be available without leaving the islands. Our local sea cadet programme attracts learners from outside of Shetland and this is an achievement that redresses the balance and should continue to prosper by whatever means.

Modern Apprenticeships should be available to our school leavers and wherever possible work and study should be available from a home environment when desired.

The council has responsibilities to our looked-after children and to provide support services to those with barriers to learning or difficult home or social environments. It is the responsibility of every councillor to be aware of the diverse and wide-ranging needs of children and young adults in Shetland. We need to consider pathways to education in all its forms, whether in a school environment or elsewhere.

The new Anderson High School has the potential to be a centre for excellence in learning. Many young people are excited about the prospect of attending the new high school and those from rural areas should not be restricted from access to the AHS by transport, accommodation or cost.

The unique research and industry engagement that has been achieved in 20 years of SIC support to the NAFC Marine Centre should be championed at a national level, to gain the recognition it deserves while the UK and Europe have slowly and eventually come to take steps to follow suit. We need to retain this availability to research programmes and  seek to develop more diverse post-graduate opportunities within Shetland.

 

The Elderly

Shetland’s elderly need adequate transport and access to social interaction to stay happy and healthy into old age and maintain their quality of life. The council must continue to support local groups and communities in providing these necessities for the older generations. People should receive adequate care in their own homes as they become unable to fend for themselves and our excellent care homes should be able to continue to provide for those most in need, when the time arises.

The Disadvantaged

Shetland may appear to be affluent but within it there are many who are living in a form a of poverty. Transport, again, is a key requirement for those on low income to access services and opportunities. Children form disadvantaged backgrounds can miss out on cultural and sporting activities that are readily available to those on higher incomes. Fuel poverty, food banks, the need for charity shops and poor nutrition are all realities for many in our community.

Health Care

Health services are now overseen by a joint board of SIC and NHS and so councillors have a direct input into our health services as never before. Recent issues like the much publicised decision to use ferries instead of air transport are a retrograde step that would make the time spent on a simple outpatient appointment equivalent to that required to travel to the other side of the globe. We must seek to ensure that, wherever possible, hospital users in Shetland benefit from a fair and reasonable level of service, whether through air transport or enhanced information technology.

As well as the many and diverse physical health problems that everyone suffers at some time, there are equally many issues that fall under the commonly applied term mental health and services in Shetland to support these needs of an ever-changing society are improving steadily but, due to their diverse nature, will need continued support from both the SIC and NHS to achieve positive outcomes for all affected.

Transport

There are a range of challenge that the next council will have to fight towards, not least the excellent work done by councillors and officers to gain acknowledgment at a Scottish Government level of the disparity between our inter-island ferries funding and that given to the Western Isles. This is a battle that is still on-going and requires continued support from the SIC.

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