Council agrees £3 million for ‘jewel in isles crown’
By JOHN ROBERTSON
The NAFC Marine Centre is to cost the council around £3.1 million next year. As well as training merchant navy cadets, fishermen and fish farmers, the Scalloway college carries out paid work for the council, the seafood industry and outside organisations, including regulating Shetland’s fish farms and conducting ground-breaking research. It is shortly to be renamed the North Atlantic Marine Centre.
The SIC will pay £1.98m to help fund the centre in 2009/10 plus £626,000 for rent, repairs and insurance and a one-off £380,000 for a new fish farm workboat for its fish farm after its procedures using the existing boat Crest were criticised by the Health & Safety Executive.
Another £154,000 will pay for the independent Shetland Seafood Quality Control service which is run through the institution. Part of the total funding (around £445,000) is effectively received back by the council from the government’s Scottish Funding Council.
The centre expects to earn about £967,000 towards its running costs from student fees and other income.
The centre had a £250,000 underspend last year because of staff vacancies. Staff wages will cost £2m next year if all empty posts can be filled. The centre has suffered serious problems keeping and recruiting staff, particularly in the Shetland School of Nautical Studies. As well as recruiting replacements, the centre’s new director, David Gray, said effort needed to be made to improve staff morale.
Attempts are to be made to win funding from the European Social Fund towards the centre’s costs. Councillor Alastair Cooper called for more effort because he reckoned a six-figure sum could be forthcoming.
The centre’s funding package was approved by the SIC development committee last Thursday. Councillor Betty Fullerton said the centre was “a jewel in Shetland’s crown”.
Meanwhile professor Gray, who took up the director’s job on 1st December, has been made a professor by the prospective University of the Highlands & Islands. NAFC is one of the colleges involved in the UHI. Professor Gray already has one professorship from the University of Derby. He said he was honoured to gain the new award.
UHI principal Bob Cormack said said professor Gray was “an esteemed colleague” who would play a significant role in the development of his own centre and the UHI partnership.