Isles Views 17.04.09

Community councils

The Association of Shetland Community Council (ASCC) held its six-monthly meeting in the auditorium of the Shetland Museum on Saturday. One of the main issues discussed was the provision of the air ambulance service, especially to the outer isles.

The meeting chairman, Bobby Hunter, invited Douglas Anderson from Skerries Community Council to lead the discussion given that patients from Skerries had been affected by the inability of the Inverness-based air ambulance to evacuate them within a reasonable time.

Mr Anderson said that on the two occasions when the air ambulance had been urgently required it had proved to be useless. On one such occasion, through local pressure, they had managed to get the rescue helicopter based in Sumburgh to take the patient to hospital.

Mr Anderson said that on the other occasion the patient had died but stressed that, in this case, a faster air ambulance response would have been unlikely to have made a difference. He pointed no finger of blame at any individual but called for a joined up approach to provide an effective emergency provision.

He said that there should be a procedure in place, where, if the air ambulance from Inverness cannot operate, then the rescue helicopter based in Sumburgh is asked, as a matter of course, to deputise.

Simon Bokor-Ingram, the NHS director of clinical services, and Peter Smith of the local ambulance service were present. No-one from the air ambulance was present and Mr Bokor-Ingram explained that while he recognised and understood the problem it was not within his powers to address.

MSP Tavish Scott has exchanged letters with Pauline Howie, the acting chief executive of the Scottish Ambulance Service, because he had received representations from the outer isles like Skerries and Fair Isle. Representations have been made by the ASCC on the same issue to the service support manager Worgan-Blake.

Soft verges

At the same meeting the question of soft verges on roadsides was on the agenda yet again. It is a problem widespread in rural areas and it has been discussed again and again by individual community councils and collectively at association meetings, without any real progress as many see it.

The practice has been that when ditches were cleaned out this mud was placed at the roadside as the verge. Those verges are often too soft to walk on and they can withstand no intrusion from road vehicles. They quickly get rutted and dissipated leaving nothing for pedestrians to walk on.

While there are not huge numbers of pedestrians there is more fitness awareness now than ever before and community council members find that this is one of the issues that members of the public most often ask them to try and have put right. In most cases a hard-shoulder on one side only would be acceptable.

Along two stretches of road, one in Burra and one in the Tingwall Valley, verges have been made using a better quality topsoil and those are said to represent a significant improvement. However, due to the cost those improvements are limited.

Housing needs survey

Initiative at the Edge North Isles Ltd, after intense community consultation, has put together its development plan.

The organisation found that housing was a major issue and needed to be addressed, which led to the North Isles housing needs survey being carried out late in 2008. It was known that North Isles communities viewed housing as linked to the issues of sustaining, and growing, population and economic development.

Yell, Unst and Fetlar had a combined total of 756 households with a total population of 1,727 and schoolchildren totalled 196. All those figures came from the time before the closure of the RAF base at Saxa Vord in Unst. A total of 756 questionnaires were sent out and an average of 24.5 per cent were returned.

The survey found that the majority of the population in the North Isles were private homeowners and had lived where they were at for more than 10 years. Most folk who have moved in the last five years have relocated within the North Isles and the most popular reasons for this have been employment, family circumstances and the need for more space.

The average ages of households are 45-59 years with 25-44 years olds a close second.

A separate questionnaire was sent out to businesses and when the question “Does the lack of good, affordable accommodation for employees have a detrimental effect on your business?” was asked, the answer was a definite “Yes”.

People felt that the areas that would benefit most from housing developments were Cullivoe, Mid Yell, Burravoe and Fetlar. In rented accommodation most folk would feel comfortable paying a rent of between £61 and £70 per week. If buying they could afford a mortgage of between £115,000 and £125,000. Most folk would want houses with two bedrooms and Yell was the most popular place to be housed.

New Mid Yell school

The building of a new junior high and primary school in Mid Yell is seen by many as long overdue. One of the big problems with the school, as it is now, is the amount of temporary classrooms, about 15 per cent of the total school.

Those classrooms have no toilets within them and generations of pupils and teachers have always viewed this as being unsatisfactory. When it was announced that a new school was to be built it came as good news indeed.

In order to expedite matters the site was cleared last summer and the successful contractor was named. However, all the bids had come in over budget and ways of reducing the cost had to found.

A few obvious points were identified but the plans for the new school have been pared down to the point where grave concerns are being expressed as to what the school will be like when it is finished and the question is being asked “Will it be fit for purpose?”

Yell churches together

Alma Lewis wants to thank everyone who contributed to the united service in the Mid Yell kirk on Easter Sunday.

She wants to say thanks not only to those who took part in the service but to those who served the refreshments afterwards.

Alma expresses the hope that this get-together of the Yell kirks will be the first of many that Yell Churches Together will organise.

Easter changes

Easter, in common with other festivals, Christian and otherwise, has changed in the way that folk celebrate them.

Nowadays every shop and supermarket display vast numbers of garishly-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs for sale but, of course, eggs have always been important at Easter time.

As a boy, my friends and I all had paese eggs to “hit up” on Easter Sunday. In those days everyone kept hens and an egg for each child was selected. We had a theory, rightly or wrongly, that if the eggs were boiled in coloured water then it made the eggshells tougher.

Sometimes mothers would have dye for colouring yarn and this was used, but if there was no dye then the eggs were boiled in strong tea that would tint the eggshell. A paese egg could not be so called unless if it had boiled for at least half an hour.

We never rolled eggs, we threw them up in the air but we were careful to look for an area where the ground was soft to give them a better chance of staying whole for more than one launch.

One of the places we used to go in North Yell was the Fluddings, the place where the peats were cut. It was mossy there and often the eggs remained whole for several throws but the downside, in the most literal sense, was that sometimes the eggs would disappear down through the ground and it would cost us a job to find them again. In the end the eggs would break, we would eat them and a good day was had by all.

Hunter Michael Coutts

Last week I said that Michael and Wilma Henderson were awaiting the arrival of their first grandchild. I am delighted to report that Michelle and Robbie Coutts are the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy, Hunter Michael.

Proud and pleased as they all are perhaps proudest of all is Cynthia Henderson. Already she was everyone’s favourite granny but now she has gone one better and become a great-granny. Congratulations.

Lawrence Tulloch


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