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Shetland fishing spokesmen have slammed a “shameful” deal to award a huge increase in mackerel quota to Faroe, saying it has failed to protect the long-term interests of the UK pelagic fleet.
The agreement on mackerel allocations for the north-east Atlantic was signed in London on Wednesday evening, bringing an extra 100,000 tonnes of fish to the Scottish fleet. The Shetland quota is likely to rise from over 30,000 tonnes to about 55,000.
According to Holyrood, Scotland’s most valuable fishery could be worth an extra £83 million as a result of the deal which includes Faroe for the first time. It means Scottish whitefish boats will once more have access to Faroese waters after being excluded for four years.
The mackerel TAC for the entire area now stands at a whopping 1.2 million tonnes – up about 81 per cent with the EU and Norway scooping 71.8 per cent of the fishery on the basis of their current bilateral agreement.
Faroe will receive 12.6 per cent of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and a further 15.6 per cent has been set aside for Icelandic and Russian catches still to be agreed.
Scottish fishermen will see their quota rise to over 210,000 tonnes, roughly equivalent to 42 per cent of the total EU quota.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive Simon Collins said Faroe had had its mackerel share doubled and for the first time handed access to Shetland waters to fish that hugely expanded catch.
The deal may pay off in the short term owing to the size of the TAC for 2014, but if quotas go down in future, Faroe will still be entitled to its near 13 per cent.
Mr Collins said: “This cavalier treatment of the UK’s most valuable catch is shameful. This fishery is far more important to Shetland than it ever was to Faroe. Yet unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, led by an irresponsible fisheries commissioner, have been given free rein to betray our community.”
He added that the Commission had made a “right royal fist of this from the beginning”.
Mr Collins said: “We are also angry and frustrated at the Commission’s behaviour over recent months. If they had been much firmer from the outset, we might have achieved a much better deal.
“The last thing we want as a result of this deal is Shetland waters full of Faroese boats catching quota that the Commission has handed over to them. Access is just as important as quota share. Once the door is open they will just keep on coming.
“There has been a curious double standard throughout his dispute. Faroe has said it needs more quota because the fish are in its waters, but they also need access to our waters to catch it.”
Shetland Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Brian Isbister dubbed the deal a “pure smash and grab” that was all about politics and had no basis in stock assessment.
He said: “Hats off to the Faroese for manipulating the situation, but in the long run we will not see this deal as being so clever.”
Mr Isbister said the Commission seemed to have been oddly sympathetic to Faroese claims of peripherality and fisheries dependence.
There had been little pressure for an expanded share from established Faroese pelagic interests, but Faroe would trade much of its new mackerel share for access to whitefish grounds north of Russia, he added.
Mr Isbister said the amount of fish that could be caught meant there would be major restructuring of the market with competition to find buyers and an inevitable dip in price. There would also be long-term unsustainable pressure on the mackerel stock.
He added: “We do not see this providing a solid, long-term benefit to the fleet. We have moved from a very stable situation of mackerel fleet management to a more uncertain one.”
• For full story see The Shetland Times tomorrow.
Plans to bring a redundant glasshouse in Tingwall back to life will be discussed at a public meeting to gauge levels of interest.
Environment action group Transition Shetland wants to turn the 2,500 square metre building into a community growing centre and commissioned a £20,000 feasibility study into buying and restoring the glasshouse.
That has been completed by a team, led by Scalloway-based consultants AB Associates, including Richard Gibson Architects, RG Jamieson Engineers, Ness Engineering and Stephen Johnston from David Adamson Surveyors.
The study concluded that with significant investment the building, owned by Ghufar Razaq, could
be brought back into use for locals to grow their own food under glass.
Transition Shetland, is confident the money can be raised. However, the organisation says the project will only get off the ground if enough people are interested in getting involved.
Chairman Pete Bevington said: “We’ve spent about two years now raising funds and commissioning this feasibility study from AB Associates.
“What they have discovered is that while we face a big challenge restoring this building, there are a lot of people out there who want to see it happen.
“We now have to make a decision whether to proceed and we need to know how many people are willing to get involved in bringing this tremendous asset back to life.
“We are very confident we can raise the funds to do this as long as we can negotiate a deal with the current owner.
“But the most crucial factor will be people getting involved. We would urge anyone with an interest in the glasshouse to come along on 26th March and find out more and hopefully sign up to getting involved.”
The public meeting will be held at 7pm on Wednesday 26th March at Tingwall Public Hall.
Post Office mortgages will be available to some folk in Shetland following a change in policy.
The company has decided to extend its coverage to Scottish islands including mainland Shetland, but other islands will be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael.
Mr Carmichael said he had spoken to chief executive of the Post Office Paula Vennells for a second time, after raising his concerns last week.
Mr Carmichael said previously that he was “alarmed” that the Post Office did not provide mortgage services to the Scottish isles, and a public service should not deny people access becuase of where they live.
He said: “I am delighted that the Post Office chief executive has confirmed to me that she has already been able to extend the availability of these mortgages to mainland Orkney and mainland Shetland. She continues to work on the widest possible coverage and in the meantime all applications, wherever they come from, will be considered on a case by case basis.”
The issue came to prominence earlier this month after Highlands and Islands MSP Jean Urquhart also raised concerns. This was after a woman in Shetland had tried to apply for a mortgage but was told she was not eligible.
Mrs Urquhart’s office said the Post Office had agreed to change its policy to include Scottish Islands including mainland Shetland. But she had been told by the Post Office that provision to remaining islands would be kept under review.
She said: “We desperately need alternatives to the big banks, and Post Office financial services could play a big role in that. It’s great news that at least some islanders will now be able to benefit from that greater choice.
“But there remain many islands still excluded from the Post Office’s mortgage services, including all of Shetland other than the mainland. So I’ll keep pushing to persuade the Post Office to stick to its roots as a truly universal service.
“After I raised this issue last week, the Post Office listened, and responded quickly. They’ve shown they are willing to engage, and I understand they are keeping their island mortgage rules under review.
“So I would urge Shetlanders from the outer islands who would like the choice of a Post Office mortgage to contact them and tell them the demand is there.
“The islands continue to be discriminated against in everything from delivery charges to LPG prices. This good news just makes me more determined to keep fighting for a fair deal for island consumers.”
Last week Mr Carmichael explained the conditions were constructed by the Bank of Ireland, who are the actual mortgage providers.
In a statement to Ms Urquhart a Post Office spokesman said: “I can confirm that following our review, and in response to customer demand, the wide range of Post Office mortgage products will now be available to customers in Skye, Bute, Lewis & Harris, mainland Orkney, mainland Shetlands (sic), Arran, Mull and Islay.”
A SHETLAND fishing leader has condemned the compromise to end the four year long mackerel war as a reward for piracy.
On Wednesday a deal was signed to allocate Faroe 12.6 per cent of mackerel catches in the north east Atlantic while the EU and Norway are to share 71.8 per cent.
The remaining 15.6 per cent have been set aside for Iceland and Russia, who are not part of this trilateral agreement.
While Scottish fishing leaders described the deal as "a significant breakthrough" in the long running stalemate, the Shetland Fishermen's Association (SFA) said it was "bitterly disappointed".
There may be no future for Shetland College or the NAFC Marine Centre if funding issues are not addressed.
This was the warning by South Mainland councillor George Smith, who raised his concerns at a meeting of the council’s development committee this morning.
He questioned why the NAFC is to receive four times the amount of funding from the local authority compared to the college for the financial year 2014/15.
Today members agreed to use surplus funds of about £644,000 from the Shetland Development Trust.
The money was requested for running costs for the NAFC – taking the total contribution from the council to about £1.17 million.
George Smith: “Unless we take some swift action we might not have a Shetland College or and NAFC either.”
But Mr Smith questioned why the NAFC was receiving so much more compared to the £296,000 Shetland College was getting – about 12 per cent of its income.
Members discussed the matter against a backdrop of decreasing council finance and a tertiary education review – a proposal to draw together Shetland College, the NAFC and Train Shetland into one entity by 2016.
Council funding to the Shetland Fisheries Training Centre – the trust that operates the NAFC – has been cut by nearly £900,000 but the council pays about £418,00 for the NAFC’s ground rentals and associated costs to property company SLAP.
However there was a warning the NAFC would not be able to continue down the same path in future.
Mr Smith called for a “level playing field” and said there was “no reason” why the NAFC could not look to external funding like Shetland College, for example considering research grants or funding from industry.
Development officer Douglas Irvine agreed that the NAFC had to look at other means of finding money.
“The NAFC must change,” he said.
“The funding package that is available at the moment is not going to be available in future.”
Wary of the funding pressure on both colleges Mr Smith said by the end of the review: “unless we take some swift action we might not have a Shetland College or an NAFC either.”
Afterwards Mr Smith explained that most of Shetland College’s funding comes from the Scottish Funding Council and is reliant on student numbers.
In a college board meeting last week, members were told Shetland College enrolment figures appeared to have peaked in 2010/11, and since then have declined by about 200 enrolments per academic session.
In the report it was stated there has been a “significant reduction” in part-time further education and part-time higher education students.
But a drop in full-time further education enrolments in 2013/14 had “impacted considerably” how much money the Scottish Funding Council should provide the college. That is based on on creating WSUMs activity – a way of measuring student activity.
Irene Peterson said the college has met its WSUMs targets in the last few years, but student numbers this academic year are looking lower than this time last year – which means there may be a clawback from the Scottish Funding Council.
Last week’s report stated it was highly likely that the college would fail to meet its WSUMs target this academic year, leading to a potential clawback of funding of up to approximately £311,000.
This would be in addition to the already forecast deficit of £269,000 in the current financial year.
Mrs Peterson added the college had known for a year or two that people are tending to stay on for 5th and 6th year at school and not necessarily doing a wide range of higher and advanced higher qualifications.
“That may have an impact on the number of young people coming to the college, and who knows definitively, but Shetland has got high employment levels.”
She added although a lot of workers in the oil and gas industry are incoming, there will be a “spin off” from that.
“Anecdotally we do hear that young people are benefitting from the opportunities for employment, maybe not necessarily in the lines they want to go into ultimately, but there are jobs if they want them.
“That could be a factor.”
Mrs Peterson said more youngsters could be staying at school to get qualifications that will help them to leave the island for further study or possibly to come to the college for further study.
She said it could also be because pupils like being in a school environment or like being in their own community.
Uptake on some Train Shetland short courses is also lower, she said.
“That could relate to the fact…the council is tightening its belt, the council is reducing what it’s spending on training and that’s having a knock-on effect here [Train Shetland] and on the college.”
She said SVQ course numbers – courses for people who are employed by the council – have dropped.
This is because the council is reducing its training and there is less training being directed towards the college therefore affecting part-time student numbers.
Shetland College was not alone in having a challenge in relation to meeting its WSUMs targets for 2013/14, said Mrs Peterson.
Meanwhile full-time higher education course numbers for the college are now greater than full-time further education numbers.
Higher education courses cover degrees, HNCs and HNDs.
“There is a gradual trend in relation to the number of full-time students that are going on and doing HE in Shetland through Shetland College… hopefully into the future there will be more growth in that area but we obviously want to pick up our numbers again on the FE front.”
Books of Interest
Other Shetland/Scottish News Sites
Jobs & Opportunities
Job Centre Plus
shetland-news.co.uk - Job Opportunities
Shetland Islands Council Jobs on www.myjobscotland.gov.uk
Shetland Recreational Trust Jobs
NHS Shetland Jobs
Shetland Times Situations Vacant
(although currently the Shetland Times is not updating this facility)
Shetland Arts Opportunities
shetlandproperty.com (Inksters Solicitors)
d-s-r.co.uk (Dowle, Smith & Rutherford)
shetland-news.co.uk (property pages)
shetlink.com (Accommodation Classifieds)
shetlandtimes.co.uk (properties section)
Hjaltland Housing Association