Yell Community Council is short of two members. George Nisbet from Mid Yell resigned last year because he found it very difficult to attend meetings on a regular basis. I resigned too because of our move to North Roe.
Community councils are the most grass roots of all elected representatives and at times it has been difficult to fill vacancies. The reason for this is not entirely clear. It could be that some feel that community councils are irrelevant; maybe some feel that they are not up to the job or that they do not have the time to give to it.
Meetings take place once a month and while community councils are not empowered to take big decisions they can be influential in local decision-making. For example they are always consulted by the planning department with regard to new buildings and developments in the area.
At the request of councils, officials from many agencies will attend to inform, or perhaps justify decisions and proposals – organisations like Scottish Water, electricity companies, the health board, the council’s roads department, schools service and ferry service and many, many more.
SIC councillors for the area also attend on a regular basis and all this gives community council members the opportunity to speak to people in quite high places and express the views of the folk who elected them. Community councils have a budget that allows them to give grants for all sorts of community projects.
To be a community councillor can be can be both challenging and enjoyable but never too arduous although the chairmen put in a great deal of time and effort on behalf of the communities.
By-elections are taking place in a number of different areas of Shetland and nominations have to be in by 4pm on Tuesday 9th March. Polling will be completed by 4pm on Thursday 10th April. It will be a postal ballot in all areas.
There is an exhibition on at the moment in the Bonhoga Art Gallery called Ring Ring. Schoolchildren from all over Shetland have been invited to design and create a ring that celebrates something.
Ross Johnson, who is in secondary 1 at Mid Yell Junior High School, won the highly commended prize for a work tools ring crafted from wire and fantasy film. Two other pupils from Mid Yell School had a special mention for their unusual twisted wire designs.
They were Logan Spence of secondary 2 and Stephanie Sinclair secondary 1. All classes had great fun designing and creating rings out of different materials.
Yell tourism group
The Bluemull Development Company, among its many other activities, is seeking to resurrect the Yell Tourism Group. This group was kick started in the 1990s by Yell Community Council and its main task, at that time, was to produce a Yell leaflet.
YTG quickly discovered that it tended to fall between stools when it came to attracting grant aid. It was not a business seeking to employ others nor was it a volunteer group like a hall committee. Shetland Amenity Trust took on the production of regional leaflets – a total of over 20 were printed covering the length and breadth of Shetland.
With the problem of the leaflet solved the group went on to promote Yell in other ways. In those days Yell had plentiful accommodation. The North Isles Motel was working and there were 10 B&Bs all competing for trade.
Nearly all the Yell businesses, even the ones that had little to do with tourism, joined the group and paid a membership fee and an internal leaflet was issued annually to highlight the services offered to visitors. A website was established to promote Yell, flagging up the attractions of an island that is looked on by some as unfashionable.
Yell has some of the most beautiful beaches in Shetland, it is a great place to see otters and its locality means that a single ferry crossing can take a visitor, or a resident, to most of the places they want to go to.
Nowadays, sadly, accommodation is hard to find in Yell and some endeavours to establish tourism providers have fallen through. While it is right and proper to have ever higher standards it can be that the folk with one or two spare bedrooms are wary about committing the necessary investment for what is a short season.
Anyone who has an interest in Yell Tourism Group, or anyone who has ideas or suggestions should contact Karen Hannay. Karen is development worker with the Bluemull Development Company and she would be pleased to hear from anyone interested. She can be contacted on 01957 744394 or emailed on firstname.lastname@example.org
Unst Partnership has issued a newsletter which is intended to inform Unst folk about the aim and purpose of the organisation. Among other things it says that it was set up, in the first place, to relieve poverty and unemployment and to promote trade and industry for the benefit of Unst residents as well as to advance education and training for Unst folk to help them grow their skills and businesses.
The organisation is a company limited by guarantee and a charity. This means that all of the work it does must be for the good of the wider community. Over the last year or so those involved have been thinking about how they can better serve the needs of the community.
For example, a study was carried out into the possibility of buying the Saxa Vord resort, but it was decided that it was not a feasible idea at the moment. The partnership has enjoyed something of a revival and with the help of professional consultants it has changed its constitution to make it more open and inclusive.
Membership is now open to anyone who lives in Unst and, in the last few months, membership has more than doubled. There is in place now a full board of 10 directors who are determined to do what they can to help Unst’s economy and community thrive.
The office bearers are: chairman Gordon Thomson, a member of Unst Community Council who he is interested in sport, creative writing, gardening and “noisy rock music”; vice-chairwoman: Maggi Reynor, who is depute head teacher at the Baltasound School and head teacher of the Fetlar School; secretaries Karen Smith, social studies teacher at Baltasound School, and Liam O’Neill, a freelance professional artist, designer and illustrator with a keen interest in archaeology and history.
Other directors span a wide range of skills and interests that will, without doubt, be valuable to the partnership. The partnership is now seeking to create a new, special, type of company called a Community Interest Company (CIC).
The main activity of this new company will be to find marketplaces for Unst’s existing products and help to produce packaging and branding to make those products even more attractive. The new company will not make its own products; it does not seek to compete with current businesses.
The CIC will draw an income from the services it provides to local businesses and, as the office bearers see it, there are two choices as to how that money might be used. It could put the money back into the running of the CIC or it could give it out to shareholders.
The CIC will be made up of shares and anyone in Unst could become a shareholder. The CIC is restricted by law and this means that it can only operate for the benefit of the community and it does not allow one company or individual to take all the profit.
It is also limited to giving a certain amount only to shareholders. The Unst Partnership is well aware that the new company will not work unless it is known what sort of help businesses in Unst actually need.
Working groups have been set up to look at priorities for Unst’s food and drink, tourism, art and crafts sectors. These working groups will make sure that the new CIC will offer help that is actually needed.
The Unst Partnership will still welcome new members. Anyone who is a member has a say and the right to vote on how the partnership is run. Membership is free and there is no risk should any business venture go wrong. The company is limited by guarantee, which means that the most that any member would have to pay is £1.
The Uyeasound hop is now booked for Saturday March 6th and music will be by the Alan Nicolson Band. The hop was postponed from its original date because of the fatal forklift accident in Baltasound.
The Up-Helly-A’ committee is keen to source as many photos of ex-Jarls and their squads as possible. They want to display the photos in the Galley Shed because next year, 2011, will mark 100 years of Up-Helly-A’ in Uyeasound.