Times Past 27.06.08


Shetland Islands Council has won its fight to stop Scottish secretary George Younger imposing a £3.7 million cut in this year’s budget.

On Wednesday Mr Younger announced he would be taking no action against the SIC for being 46 per cent over the government guide­line spending limits. He is to order four other Scottish local authorities to reduce their rates and will take Parliamentary action to enforce these cuts if the councils do not reduce their budgets.

Mr Younger told the SIC he expects the council to consider future expenditure “with a view to aligning it more closely with the government expenditure guidelines”. This request will be considered in discussions between the SIC and Scottish office.

It was in early May that Mr Younger told the council he wanted a £3.7 million cut, or a 15p reduction in the rates. His announcement brought a storm of protest from the SIC and dozens of local organisations and voluntary groups wrote to Mr Younger opposing the cuts, stating they would rather pay the present rates than see a massive reduction in local servies.

Maintenance workers at the Sullom Voe terminal went on strike on Tuesday afternoon after a mass meeting of workers unanimously decided to reject the pay offer from Capper Neill International.

Of the 235 men involved, 100 are travelling workers and they were flown south from Scatsta on Tuesday evening. The remaining workers have mounted a 24-hour picket line outside the entrance to the terminal.
A shop steward said on Tuesday that picketing by members of the pollution control squad at Sellaness would be carried out in line with their normal staff rota. He added that if a spill or accident occurred the men would respond to an emergency “if asked to do so by the Shetland people or by Shetland Islands Council”.

As far as providing emergency cover was concerned the workers said they had given seven days notice of strike, which they were not obliged to do so that emergency safety provisions could be made. But, they added, the strike call had been treated “with contempt and

no provisions has been made”. However, BP said on Wednesday that full emergency cover had been arranged.


William Fraser, senior, Crooka­taing, Walls, and his son, Willie junior, were working in a field near their house on Wednesday night. It was a fine, quiet, peaceful night, with the sun shining, and they were making the most of it. Just as they were about to go into the house for supper, about nine o’clock, they saw a man coming over the hill towards them, walking briskly.

They knew he was a stranger, but they got a real surprise when the man spoke to them in broken German – he turned out to be an Estonian fleeing from the Russians, and seeking political asylum!

What happened after that makes a fantastic story. Soon after the man, 32-year-old Erich Klaub, had been taken into the house for a cup of tea, between twenty and thirty Russians had landed at Footabrough – where Klaub had come ashore – and searched the hills for him. They passed within fifty yards of the Frasers’ house, but had made no attempt to visit the house.

By the time the police arrived, early yesterday morning, the Russians had withdrawn. But later yesterday a Russian fishing vessel called at Lerwick and landed two important members of the fishing expedition who asked for Klaub’s return. Their request was refused.

That, in a nutshell, is the story. It was pieced together after a visit to the Walls area by Shetland Times reporters.

Mr Willie Fraser, junior, told his and his father’s side. The man was dressed only in trousers, shirt and socks – no socks, no jacket, or hat. He was a big man, about six feet, and well-built in proportion. His feet and legs were wet, as though he had been in the sea.

It was lucky he stumbled across the Fraser’s house – the walk had taken him well over an hour. Lucky because 27-year-old Willie Fraser has a smattering of German, so that they could at least understand one another.

Klaub told Mr Fraser he had come ashore in a small motor boat, which he had taken from the Russian ship, because it was his intention to get away from behind the Iron Curtain.

Willie said: “I didn’t know very well what to do with him, so I asked if I could phone the police. He seemed to be agreeable to this, so I went to the kiosk just up the road.”

Klaub told Willie that his aim was to get to Sweden. He could not speak Swedish, but he knew many Estonians who had fled to that country for sanctuary, and he hoped to link up with them.

Klaub also told him he was a married man, with a six-year-old daughter, still living in Estonia.

Meanwhile, Mr James Thomson, coastguard watcher at Watsness, had seen parties of Russians coming ashore from the parent ship and from Russian fishing boats. He reported this fact to his district officer in Lerwick, who in turn informed Mr R. C. G. Laurenson, immigration officer.

When the police arrived at Crookataing, Klaub surrendered himself to them and claimed political asylum.


Editorial. – It is quite true that at the present time the hosiery trade is not of really paramount importance in these islands, for hundreds of young women are finding remunerative employment at the various fishing stations, scattered all over the islands from Unst to Sumburgh Head, and, to the credit of Shetland girls be it said, there is not a family that is less liable to the pinch of “hard times” because the girls are working for good wages away from home. But, while the young women of the county are so employed, they can not be devoting the same amount of time to knitting as they are doing during other months of the year, when no fishing is going on. In such circumstances, then, the effect produced by the recent action of the authorities [in taking cases against merchants under the Truck Amendment Act] will not be felt so much at present as it will be at a later date.

The existence of the law and its being put in operation is well-known; the question is, how is it to be got over? A few weeks ago we suggested that the County Council – as representative of all the interests of the County – should take the initiative, and petition for an Order in Council suspending the tenth section of the Act, so far as it applied to Shetland. Of course, the Council did not take any action. If it had been the case of some poor obscure crofter, whose house was found to be not up-to-date in regard to sanitation; or some poor destitute old woman who had failed to report a case of supposed sheep-scab, then the united wisdom and light and learning of the Council would have been evoked in all its might and majesty. But in the case of the hosiery trade, it is only the fact that the poor will become a little more poor, and the battle for existence still more keen.


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