Editorial: The Old Rock 02.10.09

What supreme irony it is that, with the news still fresh about our carbon footprint being found to be double the Scottish average, we learn that the Shetland Arts chief is about to jet off for two and a half weeks, on full pay, to a “social enterprise forum” in Australia.

Of course jaunts to far-flung places are nothing new. Councillors and officials have been at it for years – it used to be said that one SIC employee spent so much time in the US he qualified for dual nationality – and trust heads did not need much incitement to jump on the bandwagon. But in the mind-boggling stakes this latest one surely takes some beating.

Highlands & Islands Enterprise is apparently picking the tab on this occasion, but that offers little saving grace to Shetland Arts’ involvement. This is a ridiculous waste of public money which would be better spent in helping businesses in the area during a time when there is so much talk of savage cuts in both the public and private sectors.

The justification for this is impossible to see. To suggest that the event could “promote high-level discussion on the future of social enterprise” will fool no-one. Neither will the risible notion that rural aspects down under somehow mirror those in the Highlands and Islands, with long distances and dispersed populations. Any similarity is at best extremely vague, as anyone who has experience of both places knows only too well.

Australian comedian Barry Humphries, in his alter-ego of Dame Edna Everage, once told an interviewer: “Never be afraid to laugh at yourself – after all, you could be missing out on the joke of the century.” Apt words indeed.


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