Strain felt in Brae over perceived rowdiness by gas plant workers
Tensions are rising in Brae over the impact the growing number of oil and gas workers are having on the area’s social fabric.
Many believe rowdy and intimidating behaviour in recent weeks has come predominantly from incoming workers at the new gas plant near Sullom Voe.
Police say much of the activity taking place falls short of amounting to criminal behaviour, but they have urged anyone with concerns to get in touch.
The issue was due to be discussed by members of the Delting Community Council last night.
Prior to the meeting the chairman, SIC councillor Alastair Cooper, said: “The industry has a role in actually recognising that a degree of intimidation is going on in the community. It’s maybe not manifesting itself in criminal action, but there are folk feeling uncomfortable as a result.”
The developing situation has prompted two women to form a business venture aimed at helping people manage their stress, conflict and general pressures.
Shona Manson and Diane Taylor plan to target the oil and gas industry in the isles to help resolve the growing difficulties.
The emerging work is being carried out through their venture, Personal and Executive Coaching (PECS).
Miss Manson, who is best known for her role as the leading light in mental health charity Mind Your Head, is a specialist in family mediation, mental wellbeing and suicide prevention.
She said: “We can also see that a sudden influx of predominantly male workers to a small community is challenging for local residents and tensions can arise.
“We believe that helping individual workers manage stress and conflict will improve their well-being, their performance at work and also have benefits for the wider community.”
Many of the discussions over the troubles have largely been aired on the internet, with a Facebook page – “Brae gasplant” – even being set up to highlight the problem.
Brae resident Sean Fillingham said the workers were “totally ruining” Brae. Posting on the social network site, he said there were fights over the weekend, with people getting barred and refused drink in the Northern Lights bar.
Mr Fillingham stated: “Someone will get hurt badly. Okay, the money for the community is good but why should we put up with this every weekend? I don’t go out every weekend but see and hear it the whole time. Now barges [are] coming to Lerwick and Scalloway. Why don’t they make it [an] off shore site?”
Not everyone is upset about the changes, however.
One woman – who did not wish to be named – said she had experienced no trouble while out drinking in the Mid Brae Inn with two of her friends recently. But the licensing trade needed to take its share of the responsibility.
She said: “It was very busy and there were not very many women there. But the majority of the men were fine. We didn’t have any trouble with them, apart from a couple who had had far too much to drink, and were falling over.
“It’s difficult to tell if it’s really their fault or if somebody should have stopped serving them a while before.”
That was a view shared by isles MSP Tavish Scott who has spoken to the police and Petrofac about the issue.
“My take is that the companies involved and our local police force and, particularly, the pubs in Brae have to work together to make sure they clamp down on disruption,” Mr Scott said.
“There’s a big onus on the pubs who, after all, have to operate under the licensing laws to operate within those laws. That means appropriate stewarding and not serving people with too much drink.”
Shetland’s area commander, Chief Inspector Angus MacInnes, advised people to contact the police if they had concerns.
He said: “All the business and development is really good for the community, because it’s vibrant.
“If there are some things that aren’t as people would like them, you need to tell the appropriate authority – in this case the police – in the appropriate manner.
“Phone us up and report an incident. Social media is a really good tool but we need to use it properly.
“We are aware of some local concerns. People … have reported other crimes to us in Brae, and we’ve dealt with them – in many cases they’ve been detected, most recently the vandalism in the cemetery.
“If there are other issues in Brae people need to report them to us. If there’s behaviour taking place when we’re not there, they need to tell us.”
Mr MacInnes highlighted figures which showed there were seven calls for help to the police relating to Brae over the weekend, out of 68 incidents throughout the isles.
“Brae is becoming a priority because there is this perception that terrible things are happening,” he added.