Councillors have approved a £450,000 grant for the upgrading of the Boddam slaughterhouse at the same time as asking Shetland’s livestock cooperative to further justify its need for £1 million in rescue funding.
The sum was agreed by a margin of 11-6 at a special meeting of the development committee on Monday afternoon despite concern from some councillors about the ambitious nature of Pure Shetland Lamb’s future plans and doubts about some of their business practices.
It was also agreed that the development trust-owned slaughterhouse should be sold to Pure Shetland Lamb for a sum of £50,000.
But while there finally appeared to be some enthusiasm among many councillors for providing financial assistance to agricultural cooperative SLMG, no decision will be taken until they have produced a fuller business plan – which should happen sometime in the next few weeks.
An SLMG report before councillors has identified a need for more than £1 million to help revitalise local agriculture, including essential upgrades and improvements to the marts building.
It has also identified a need for either upgrading the Laxfirth abattoir or building a new slaughterhouse altogether. The sum of £2.4 million has been set aside in the economic development unit’s budget towards building a new abattoir and another approach is to be made to the EU to see whether there is a case for an exemption from state aid rules.
Several councillors said they thought it was imperative to provide support to the Boddam slaughterhouse and the SLMG-operated Laxfirth abattoir.
Councillor Allison Duncan, who previously had to apologise for using intemperate language when talking about SLMG, said: “It is important for all agriculturalists that we support and improve both slaughterhouses.”
Speaking after the meeting, SLMG chairman Ronnie Eunson said he welcomed signs that councillors were “clearly supportive” of the concept of a new abattoir. “It has always been our opinion that a multi-use facility is best for everyone,” he added.
But Mr Eunson has still submitted a formal letter of complaint to SIC chief executive David Clark about the way in which the whole affair has been handled. It is understood he was unhappy with references in head of economic development Neil Grant’s report to councillors as to whether the business review, compiled by AB Associates, was state aid-compliant.