Campaign launched to lure new marine body north to the isles

THE SIC is to campaign for the future government marine organi­sation Marine Scotland to be based in Shetland.

The body is set to be created through the forthcoming Marine Bill to control and develop use of the mar­­ine environment, possibly in­clud­ing the areas of marine science, conservation, fisheries research and enforcement.

The idea of Shetland making a pitch to host the organisation was put forward by councillor Rick Nickerson at Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council. He was develop­ing a suggestion from harbour board chairman Alastair Cooper who said Shetland should be at the centre of marine management since it had led the country in many aspects of mar­ine policy including through its special powers to control fish farm­ing and oil-related developments around the coast as well as in running the port of Sullom Voe and inshore shellfish fisheries. Convener Sandy Cluness said he had been involved in trying to get the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency moved to Shetland but that had been turned down. Councillor Gussie Angus said Shetland had come within a whisker of getting the NAFC Marine Centre designated as Scotland’s national marine centre.

Mr Nickerson also called for the council to not just respond to con­sultation on the Bill but to go to Edin­burgh and negotiate with govern­ment ministers to ensure its proposed powers are suited to Shetland.

Vice-convener Josie Simpson had earlier stressed the importance of ensuring Shetland retains control over its own marine-related affairs, as has been made clear to the government in the 23-page official response to consultation which has been compiled by Martin Holmes and Ian Napier of NAFC.

The response strongly defends local decision-making powers and informs the government that the SIC is keen to take the lead in establishing a pilot Scottish Marine Region in Shetland to serve as a model of marine management for the rest of the country.

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*The SIC is considering invest­ing in the development of new gas fields west of Shetland.

The first stage agreed this week is to spend £80,000 to gain inside information about recent oil com­pany activities in the sector. The money will engage expert consul­tants and buy access to an online data room set up by Total and Chevron who are developing new fields. It will reveal the results of engineering studies into the three options for a gas processing hub either offshore in shallow or deep water or at Sullom Voe. Gas from potentially many Atlantic frontier fields could be brought together in the hub for export.

The SIC will have to sign a con­fidentiality clause to keep sensitive information secret and will use it to assess whether there is a good opportunity for Shetland to invest in an activity which is of strategic importance to it and to Sullom Voe.

The issue was due to be debated in private by councillors at the Full Council on Wednesday but convener Sandy Cluness said it was in the public interest to reveal their plans at this stage.


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