20th September 2018
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Review of the Year – December: Disruption as wintry weather returns

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The year ended in much the same way it began – with hefty dumpings of snow coupled with freezing temperatures.

Once again, the gritters were out in force. Once again the schools closed with, once again, criticism levelled at the education department for its lack of communication over what schools were closing where due to the adverse weather.

There was sadness in Scalloway when, after more than a year’s speculation and campaigning by worried parents, the council voted to close the junior high school secondary department.

On the other hand, parents in Skerries were elated to hear their secondary department was saved once again from the axe.

Councillors voted 9-3 to give their backing to Viking Energy’s windfarm even though, in doing so, they rejected the recommendations of the council’s own planning department to refuse.

Sustainable Shetland said it would formally complain against the nine councillors who voted for the windfarm to the Standards Commission.

More people living in Shetland were in favour of the windfarm than were against it, according to The Shetland Times poll. Thirty-six per cent of those asked supported the 127 turbine project, while 33 per cent were against and 31 per cent were undecided.

The new figures represented a five per cent shift in favour since the original poll was carried out last summer.

Meanwhile Scottish Natural Heritage said it would still object to the windfarm in its latest submission, claiming the project would have an adverse impact on bird species such as whimbrel. It called for 17 turbines to be removed.

Meanwhile Scottish and Southern Energy said it hoped to press ahead with plans to transform Shetland’s creaking electricity network in a cleaner “smart grid” despite missing out on a £24 million grant from Ofgem.

There was fresh hope for the new Sullom Voe tugs being tested in Spain, when it emerged they would be here, at last, in the new year.

The search was on for savings to be found to help keep the Lerwick police station open 24 hours a day.

However the future is less certain for the town’s coastguard station, which is currently in a battle for survival against its counterpart in Stornoway following cutback plans by the coalition government. A consultation exercise into the unpopular proposal is currently underway.

Loganair announced it would increase ticket prices by an average of two per cent next year, and stop serving alcoholic drinks to passengers. The move was made to reflect rises in landing and passenger charges imposed by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited.

But council accountants managed to pull a pre-Christmas trick by making this year’s spending cuts suddenly vanish. Having despaired at finding just over £2 million out of a required £9.9 million in savings during October, SIC members were delighted to hear the amount budgeted for capital projects had been massively over-estimated. The council’s reserves were also healthier than expected.

It emerged the Air Discount Scheme would be denied to businesses and public sector organisations from April.

Shetland Folk Festival was named event of the year at MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards.

There has been no let up in the price of fuel, despite several promises or initiatives. MSPs serving Orkney and Shetland have asked for a review by the Office of Fair Trading.

The first cast members of Between Weathers were announced. Texas singer Sharleen Spiteri will star alongside actress Dawn Steele, star of Monarch of the Glen and Wild at Heart.

Fishermen were facing a 20 per cent cut in the amount of North Sea cod they can catch next year as a result of a new deal between the European Union and Norway.

European fish talks gained increases in the high value megrim quota, as well as North Sea whiting and herring, although there was no movement on prawns.

Figures showed the number of illicit drug users seeking help had increased dramatically.

Fencer Chris Rocks was named sportsperson of the year at the Shetland Recreational Trust/Shetland Times sports awards. His coach, Andy Alderman, was coach of the year.

Other winners were the senior inter-county badminton team (team of the year), the Anderson High School netball team (young team of the year) and swimmer Felix Gifford, who was named young sportsperson of the year.

Meanwhile, long-time hockey stalwart Joan Nicolson gained a lifetime endeavour award, which was presented for the first time.

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