Shetland and Orkney got off rather lightly this week when the Scottish government demanded slower running of the NorthLink ferries to save on fuel costs. The prospect of losing winter sailings is of greater concern, but at least there will be further discussion about this. There were no additional fare increases for the north boats as there will be for some west coast services.
Yet the manner of the announcement from transport minister Stewart Stevenson grated. There was no prior consultation and it was clear that even NorthLink had not been informed of what was being proposed. Why a government that has made much of its single outcome agreements with councils, which broadly allows them to spend on services as they see fit, did not ask NorthLink, in conjunction with the islands, to find the necessary savings is difficult to fathom.
It is a sign, as we enter an age of austerity in the public services, of a brutal future.
Businesses in Shetland, particularly hotels, are slowly learning about the impact of the rates revaluation that will lead to many of them paying much more from April. As we highlight today, the bigger hotels are facing colossal increases. With the country barely out of recession, this sort of financial impact is bound to leave many businesses feeling they are being kicked just as they are getting to their feet again. The government is trying to hide behind the fact that the revaluation is an independent process. Indeed it is, but ought it not to have been postponed until vibrancy has been restored to the economy?