By JOHN ROBERTSON
Hopes of a new business taking on the disused Shetland Smokehouse in Skeld are growing after three parties lodged a firm interest with the SIC. The former fish factory was advertised for lease again last month after a similar attempt last summer failed to find a taker.
SIC acting asset manager Alan Rolfe declined to give details of the three parties this week but confirmed they were all Shetland-based. One is known to be a community organisation which proposes a shop, cafe and other services.
Mr Rolfe said the expressions of interest would be investigated to see if they were worth pursuing. The process could take a couple of months and given the controversy over the last tenant, Buckie-based fish processor Cluny Fish, councillors may become involved in deciding who gets the lease.
One of the Shetland West councillors, Gary Robinson, said this week he was pleased with the response but it was too early to start counting chickens. “I think there is a bit of way to go on this and to try and make sure that we get a good business in there. I think there was a lot of disquiet in the community after what happened before with the Skeld smokehouse so we’re very keen not to have a repeat of that.”
The smokehouse has lain empty since May last year when Cluny Fish pulled out after an unpopular stay in Shetland during which it alienated the established workforce and stripped the business of assets and its Shetland Smokehouse brand name. Prior to that the smokehouse was taken over by Shetland Catch in 2004 but ended up being put into liquidation.
Ideas for reviving the factory building came out of a special enterprise day held in Skeld in September, which followed a crisis meeting the previous month where it was agreed to make a concerted effort to try to revive the economic fortunes of the community and the rest of the West Side. Among the ideas aired at that first meeting were a community shop, a heritage centre, a classic car museum and workshop, a centre for micro-businesses in information technology or engineering, a Shetland genealogy centre and a slaughterhouse.
In addition to losing the smokehouse Skeld has seen the closure of its shop in recent years and the salmon processing factory at nearby Sand, which moved to Scalloway.