Last week Jim Tait delved into The Shetland Times archives to look at the first five years of the noughties. Here, he brings things right up to date with a backward glance at events in Shetland since 2005.
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Successful games were centrepiece of busy year
The year did not begin well for former SIC convener Tom Stove, who got into trouble after failing to declare an interest at a planning board meeting when he argued against a garage being built next door to his brother’s house in Sandwick.
Mr Stove later readily admitted he had been wrong not to declare his position, when challenged about his conduct by Shetland Times reporter John Robertson, the only person to have picked up on the matter. After being quoted rule 7.11 on planning applications, from the council’s own code of conduct, he said: “There’s no doubt about it.”
A special hearing of the Standards Commission for Scotland, held in Lerwick, suspended Mr Stove from council meetings for a month, and he was also barred from attending meetings of the planning sub-committee for six months. In a strongly-worded judgment Mr Stove was told he had embarrassed himself and brought the council’s planning system and the council itself into disrepute.
There was disquiet in the tourist industry with news that operators were to set up an independent organisation to retain a local voice in tourism issues. At a meeting of 40 people there was unanimous backing for a democratically-controlled body that would “co-operate with VisitScotland as and when mutually convenient”.
The new organisation, Shetland Tourism Association, was given assurances that local control of the VisitShetland website, the online booking system and telephone inquiries would be retained. However, funding remained a crucial issue as the organisation was told by the council that the maximum it could give was £60,000 over three years. Any attempt to give more would likely be considered in breach of State Aid rules and would need to be sanctioned by the Scottish Executive, Westminster and the European Commission, SIC head of business development Douglas Irvine told the meeting.
Plans to start a second newspaper in the isles were dealt a blow when four staff members walked out weeks before the first edition of The Shetland Weekly was due to appear. The drama began on the Monday with the sudden sacking of assistant editor Jonathan Sutherland and sub-editor Julia Currie, who had raised concerns about the way the paper was being managed. They were later asked to return but refused.
Two days later editor Richard Whittaker walked out of the firm’s offices at North Ness in Lerwick, and he was followed out the door the following day by reporter Malachy Tallack. Chief reporter Ryan Taylor, who had been promoted to assistant editor following Mr Sutherland’s departure, suddenly found himself editor of the forthcoming newspaper.
Company chairman Malcolm Younger, who only a week earlier had boasted that the paper would be staffed by “the largest reporting team in the Northern Isles”, said: “It is business as usual. There should be no problem. We are just going to carry on.” The Shetland Weekly duly hit the streets but was to last for just nine issues.
The long-running dispute between the Moncrieff and Jamieson families of Sandsound over the right to park looked like being settled at last after the Jamiesons’ appeal to the Court of Session was rejected. Judges in Edinburgh agreed with the orginal ruling by Sheriff Colin Scott MacKenzie in Lerwick, that Mr Moncrieff should be allowed to park at the end of a road owned by the Jamiesons. However, that was not the end of the matter as the Jamiesons decided to take their appeal to the House of Lords, the highest court of appeal in the land.
Preparations for the Island Games in Shetland were hotting up with a range of improvements to sports facilities around the isles. New squash courts were completed at the Clickimin complex in Lerwick, along with resurfacing and new lighting at the running track, a new clay shooting range was opened at the Black Gaet between Gulberwick and Scalloway and new changing rooms were erected at various pitches where the games football tournament would be staged.
Games association manager Gary Jakeman, who was recruited from the Isle of Man to organise the staging of Shetland’s biggest ever sports event, said things were well on target for July. That would include the arrival of a cruise ship to be used as accommodation as the isles’ hotels and guest houses simply could not cater for the 3,000-plus people who were expected to arrive.
After years of informal use, for example on fishing boats, the Shetland flag was granted official status by the Lyon Court in Edinburgh, Scotland’s heraldic authority. The blue background echoed the Scottish saltire with the white cross representing Scandinavian connections.
The newly-approved flag was much in evidence at the Island Games, not only at the rain-affected opening ceremony where First Minister Jack McConnell declared the much-awaited event open, but on the following six days when Shetland’s sportsmen and women surpassed themselves by winning a succession of gold medals.
The golden bonanza was started off by 16-year-old Emma Gray in the women’s javelin, and continued with more athletics success by Michelle Sandison (10,000 metres) and Claire Wilson twice (1,500 metres and 800 metres). Others to climb to the top of the podium were archer Morag Hughson, pistol shooters David Lewis (twice) and Kevin Gray, bowlers Margaret Burnett and June Bain and golfers Loraine Anderson, Angelina Sandison, Heather Hogg and Irene Tait.
The icing on the cake was supplied by the Shetland men’s football team, when an estimated 5,500 spectators at Lerwick’s Gilbertson Park watched them defeat Guernsey 2-0 in the final. After a goal-less first half captain John Montgomery kept his cool to blast home a penalty in the 61st minute, and substitute Duncan Bray put the result beyond doubt five minutes later.
In all there were 10 golds, 14 silvers and 22 bronze medals recorded by the overall Shetland squad, but equally important was the impact the staging of the event had on the 22 competing islands from around the world, representatives of which were unanimous in their praise for Shetland hospitality and organisation. Here’s hoping there will another games to savour in the not-too-distant future.
After the biggest sporting interlude this review of the decade will allow, it has to be back to news of a more serious nature, and the coastguard tug Anglian Sovereign which ran aground on the isle of Oxna west of Scalloway.
She was refloated but then struck rocks at the Cheynies before managing to limp into Scalloway Harbour under her own steam.
The hull of the 67-metre long vessel was extensively damaged and her fuel tanks ruptured, leaking an estimated 180 tonnes of diesel between Oxna and Scalloway, with the stench of oil hanging over the village for the next couple of days.
The master of the tug, Lerwick man Peter Leask, was breathalysed by police and later charged with having more than three times the legal amount of alcohol in his system, along with other charges under the Control of Pollution Act.
Shetland Catch was at the centre of a major investigation when police raided the pelagic factory at the end of September. The police cordoned off the entrance, sent the staff home and removed computers and boxes of records. There was a simultaneous raid on Fresh Catch in Peterhead, part of an operation to monitor fish being landed in compliance with quotas.
The Shetland pelagic industry was in more trouble when the owners of the fishing boat Altaire admitted in court to Scotland’s biggest ever black fishing scam. Skipper John Peter Duncan and mate Jerry Ramsay were later fined a total of £90,000 at the High Court, where they were told their huge illegal herring and mackerel catches had threatened the local industry with closure. They had flouted regulations to protect fish stocks and had already paid back nearly £1 million after the Crown took steps to claw back illegal profits.
The Altaire saga took another twist when it emerged that four of the seven shareholders were to sell out to the Dutch, meaning that control of the vessel would pass out of Shetland hands. The £14 million boat was the third largest fishing vessel in the UK and held the second largest allocation of herring and mackerel after Whalsay’s Research. The Dutch would now control the vast bulk of EU pelagic quotas.
Shetland Development Trust, would you believe it, decided to double its investment in the Smyril Line by putting another £4.7 million into the Faroese company. The cash was said to be earmarked for Smyril’s takeover of the Norwegian company Fjord Line.
Just two councillors voted against the investment while 14 were in favour. Alistair Inkster said the extra cash would only achieve a “stay of execution” for Smyril Line, while Josie Simpson reckoned it would bring “significant business growth potential for the future”. The plans for the takeover of the Norwegian company eventually fell through.
On a much happier theme, celebrated Shetland guitarist Peerie Willie Johnson was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame, and celebrated his 85th birthday the following weekend.