Isles Views


Despite a great demand for a service many rural areas, not only in Shetland but all over Scotland, find that broadband is poor or non-existent. Enterprise minister Jim Mather said recently: “I fully recognise the frustration felt in some rural communities where people are unable to obtain a satisfactory broadband service.”

Due to the high take up a number of small telephone exchanges in rural areas have not been able to accommodate new broadband users because of capacity constraints. Last September the Scottish government announced that it was working with British Telecom to agree an upgrade programme looking at areas where the need is greatest.

The upshot of this is that work on upgrades has already begun and the first of them is expected to be completed in March. The good news for Shetland and the North Isles is that exchanges in Burravoe, Fetlar, Gutcher and Skerries as well as Fair Isle are to be upgraded.

The Grumpy Old Sailor

The Grumpy Old Sailor, by Janice Armstrong and Meilo So, is perhaps the first children’s picture book to be published in the most northerly publishing shed in Britain. This book is the first in a series of four, which feature four children and covers the four seasons.

Janice and Meilo will be signing copies of The Grumpy Old Sailor at the Shetland Museum tomorrow between 1.30pm and 3.30pm. Some light refreshments will be on offer. The book will be on sale at the Shetland Times Bookshop and other outlets and is priced at £9.99. To contact Meilo directly please e-mail

Bluemull Development Company

Jackie Smiles and Karen Hannay have been appointed as joint development workers for the Bluemull Development Company. This company was set up to fill the vacuum left when the Initiative at the Edge status finished last autumn.

During the three years of its lifespan I@te achieved a number of benefits for all of the North Isles. It established remote working and produced information leaflets including nature and archaeological trails among many other projects.

Currently the development workers are engaged in marketing their Remote Working and Business Support Services and they hope to have the Pathfinder broadband access live within the next few weeks. This will give them the best internet connection in the North Isles accessible to the public. There will be a Pathfinder launch day in February and for any information update – watch this space.

They are housed in the same offices as I@te, namely the units near the Sellafirth Hall and next door to the Centre for Creative Industries. For the North Isles, as a whole, this is a central location, five minutes away from the ferry to Unst and Fetlar and near the main road linking Gutcher and Ulsta.

Jackie and Karen are sourcing funding to set up a dedicated website for Yell. Yell Community Council and have offered sponsorship to get this up and running. They have contacted local businesses for donations to advertise on this site but there has been no great response to date. They are looking for £20 per year for the advertising and that sounds like a good deal for the local businesses.

As we reported earlier the Bluemull Development Company is seeking to appoint a powerdown officer following in the footsteps of Unst and Northmavine. Funding for this post has been applied for and it will be known in February/March if the application has been successful.

Jackie Smiles lives in Burravoe with her husband Alan and their two sons. Alan is well known as an expert stonemason and Jackie has considerable experience in the tourism industry: she used to be a hotel manageress on the Isle of Skye. She is the long time clerk to Yell Community Council.

Karen, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to Yell, arriving to live in Westsandwick last August. She has worked for a time in the Linkshouse Stores finding that a great way to get to know people. Before coming to Shetland she lived and worked, doing various jobs, in the south of France.

In the past she was marketing and communications manager for a housing association. In her new job she looks forward to working with Jackie and she has particular enthusiasm for remote working.

She says: “Not only is the cost of working in our office the same as the ferry fare but people will save time and petrol in not travelling to Lerwick. They will also get to work alongside the Bluemull Development Workers and find out what a supportive office environment we provide!”

Bad weather disrupts ferries

After the recent heavy snow came the inevitable thaw. It came, as it usually does, in the form of gales and rain. The first trouble came for the ferries on Friday afternoon when the Yell Sound service was reduced to a single vessel operation.

By Saturday morning the wind was storm force and all ferries had to be suspended with the exception of Bressay ferry Leirna. As the day went on there was no improvement with the result that none of the suspended services could re-start.

During this time the information boards correctly advised would-be travellers to the isles that ferries were suspended. The wind fell away on Sunday morning and all routes were operating normally, however the Tingwall notice board continued to state that the Bluemull Sound service was suspended.

Colin Reeves, marine superintendent for ferry services based at Sella Ness, said that this was due to the failure of the Pathfinder system in Unst. This failure occurred on Saturday night and continued until late on Sunday night. Accordingly the ferry crew was unable to access the Tingwall board to get it changed.

At the time of writing the cause of the failure is not known. Pathfinder is the council’s wireless internet system.

New resources manager

Colin Manson was recently appointed to the position of resources manager within the ferry services department of Shetland Islands Council. He took up the post on December 21st and replaces David Polson who is now in the position of service manager for the air, bus and vehicle fleet.

Colin was most recently project manager for WRVS Shetland. He has also worked for Highland Fuels, T L Dallas & Co Ltd and at the Sullom Voe Terminal for AMEC. Colin is originally from Sandwick and he says that it is his aim to maintain the high level of service provided by David Polson.

Mr Polson had become very well known in the North Isles; his work took him to many community council meetings. We welcome Mr Manson to the job and wish him every success and look forward to meeting him, and send best wishes to David in his new position.

Fetlar internal transport

Internal transport in Fetlar continues to cause concern. Many favour a solution where the same vehicle is used for all the island’s needs. This is seen as the only way that a taxi service can be viable.

A taxi should be allowed to carry Royal Mail as well as doing the school run to the ferry for the Fetlar pupil who travels each day to the school in Baltasound. R.G. Jamieson & Son of Cullivoe has been approached and invited to give an estimated costing for a suitable vehicle to be stationed in Fetlar.

A vacancy for the position of taxi driver exists and this means that there cannot be a dial-a-ride service at present. Also on this theme James Rendall, chairman of Fetlar Community Council, pointed out that it was unfair for Fetlar passengers to be dropped off at the Gutcher ferry terminal while passengers going to Unst were taken all the way to their house door.

Blueprint for Education

The Blueprint consultation meeting for Unst folk was held in Baltasound last Tuesday evening. It was seen as very important meeting with the future of Uyeasound Primary School and the secondary department of the Baltasound school at stake.

Lawrence Tulloch


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