Review of the decade: 2002
P&O’s connection to isles draws to close
The year began with, not surprisingly, over 50 people applying for four highly lucrative posts – the independent positions on the new-style Shetland Development Trust. The £8,000- a-year for about 24 days’ attendance worked out at a whopping £333 a day. Would the biggish bucks lead to more sensible decisions by the trust in the future? Dream on!
There was good news for Sullom Voe with the announcement that oil and gas from the Clair field west of Shetland would be piped to the terminal. The decision ended weeks of speculation over whether the oil and gas would go to Sullom Voe or Flotta in Orkney, or be brought in by shuttle tankers.
For the first time in over half a century Whalsay was to have a council election, following the resignation of Loretta Hutchison. Retired fisherman and Shetland Fishermen’s Association chairman Josie Simpson declared his intention to fight the seat against Mrs Hutchison’s sister, Kathleen Stewart. Mr Simpson was to be the successful candidate, gaining 292 votes to Ms Stewart’s 204.
Staying with Whalsay, Shetland’s oldest person Jeannie Hutchison celebrated her 105th birthday. Living alone in her sheltered house at Tripwell, although very deaf, she was still able to read, knit and make herself a cup of tea. Sadly Mrs Hutchison was to die just a month later.
Someone a bit younger was Scalloway goalkeeper Glenn Gilfillan, a student on the books of Berwick Rangers, who was involved in a Scottish Cup upset when his club held Glasgow Rangers to a 0-0 draw at home. Gilfillan was one of the substitutes for the match, the result of which gained Berwick a money-spinning away replay at Ibrox.
Proposals to radically reform the Common Fisheries Policy by the end of the year came under the microscope at the European Parliament. The proposals, originally drafted by a Spanish MEP but heavily amended by Scottish members, included maintaining relative stability and six to 12-mile limits, along with a multi-annual and multi-species approach to total allowable catches and quotas. This one would run and run . . .
The four independent members of Shetland Development Trust were chosen. They were retired Lerwick Harbour Trust manager Arthur Laurenson, salmon farmer and former Shetland Fishermen’s Association chief executive John Goodlad, Bixter vet Juliet Nicolson and Sullom Voe Terminal accountant James Hutton.
Shetland Amenity Trust saw the light – and paid £104,000 for it. A year of negotiations ended with the successful purchase of Sumburgh Lighthouse, the new asset described by amenity trust general manager Jimmy Moncrieff as “a jewel in the crown”.
Bigger news was shortly to come for the amenity trust, when the Heritage Lottery Fund finally made official its award of £4.9 million towards the new £10 million Shetland Museum and Archives at Hay’s Dock in Lerwick.
Lerwick Port Authority raised a court action against the council over grant repayment conditions. The authority had asked to be released from conditions relating to two separate grants – £1 million for the Dales Voe base and £750,000 for the Shetland Catch factory – but the council refused. The case was to signal years of bad relations between the two bodies.
The new Shetland Library, which had just opened in the former United Free Church on Lerwick’s Lower Hillhead, was given the thumbs down by a variety of people. The building, renovated at a cost of £1 million, was described as entirely unsuitable, cramped, having over-the-top provision for computer users and the disabled and far too little for children.
The laying of a fibre-optic cable between Shetland, Orkney and Caithness took a significant step forward with the announcement of £1.5 million of EU funding for the project.
A raft of decidedly dodgy Shetland Charitable Trust investments, including the disastrous venture into Shetland Offshore, became clear when a trust report revealed that over £17 million had been lost during the past financial year. Worse news for the trust was to come when it lost over £40 million on its investments as the stock market slumped.
In football Whalsay celebrated the opening of a plush new synthetic turf pitch, named Harbison Park after the former Bonnie Isle minister who was so instrumental in the promotion of the game back in the 1960s. Delting, however, became Shetland senior champions, embarking on what was to become a seven-year dominance in the Premier League.
P&O’s 28-year connection with Shetland drew to an end when NorthLink took over the Northern Isles contract in October, and the two new ships on the Aberdeen-Kirkwall-Lerwick run, the Hjaltland and the Hrossey, were initially well received by passengers.
There were many fears over NorthLink’s ability to run a proper freight service, however, prompted by increased tariffs and the purchase of a 30-year-old vessel, renamed the Hascosay, to carry cargo. That led to the setting up of a rival shipping company, Norse Island Ferries (NIF), formed by haulage contractors JBT, Shetland Transport and Northwards along with Gulf Offshore, Cenargo and Shetland Salmon Farmers’ Association.
The presence of NIF sparked a freight war, driving prices down for the customer. Onlookers found it difficult to believe there would be sufficient business to keep the two newcomers plus Shetland Line viable. The competition was widely welcomed by politicians and local industry but NorthLink did not like it, reporting NIF to the Office of Fair Trading for alleged unfair competition. NIF was to be short-lived.
October was also an historic month for the Anderson High School, with the appointment of former pupil Valerie Nicolson as the school’s first female head teacher. She took over from Ian Spence, who had taken early retirement, and followed names such as George Jamieson, John Graham, Bill Rhind (who had died in June) and the late Andrew Cluness in the role.
Meanwhile the falling value of Shetland Charitable Trust’s investments led trustees to agree a £6 million spending cut after officials warned that the trust would lose a third of its value in 20 years if spending was not curtailed.
Chief financial adviser Graham Johnston told trustees: “We either reduce our spending or face the long-term decline and ultimate extinguishing of the charitable trust.” Wise sentiments which would be oft repeated over the years to come. But would they be heeded?