Government minister to be pressed to help out-of-pocket Fair Isle businesses

Scottish rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead is to be pressed to help Fair Isle businesses owed money after AH Wilson Ltd., the company that built the new bird observatory, went into receivership.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott hopes to discuss the situation with the minister later this week after chairing a meeting in Lerwick today of some Fair Isle residents, SIC convener Sandy Cluness, officials from other public bodies and members of the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust (FIBOT). Other Fair Isle residents joined the meeting by phone from the island’s school.

Mr Scott is also hoping to arrange a formal meeting with the government involving Fair Isle representatives, the convener and FIBOT as soon as possible.

The meeting allowed the Fair Isle creditors owed money by AH Wilson Ltd’s bankruptcy to illustrate the scale of the financial problems in the island. The businesses affected continue to operate, despite financial strain.

FIBOT has ensured the observatory is now open and receiving visitors, but work is still to be completed on the observatory building before winter.

At the meeting various ways to help the creditors were explored. All the public bodies present and FIBOT committed themselves to working together to explore ways to help the creditors. Mr Cluness said that the council would assist Fair Isle in any way it can.

Mr Scott said: “Small businesses in Fair Isle have been left substantially out of pocket. Today’s meeting was all about how we help them.

“I welcome the SIC convener’s commitment to explore all avenues of assistance. But all the bodies who funded the new Fair Isle Bird Observatory need to help.

“The government have a significant financial investment in the project. So that is why I hope to see Richard Lochhead this week in Parliament. I want to arrange a formal meeting so a Shetland and Fair Isle delegation can explain the full extent of the situation.

“It’s good that the observatory is open and visitors can use the new facilities. But we all agreed at today’s meeting to work very hard to ensure that the Fair Isle businesses can be helped if a way can be found.”

Fair Isle resident John Best said: “The observatory is a part of our community and we are pleased to have their assurances to work with the other official agencies to redress the damage.”

Resident and B&B owner Kathy Coull said: “All the agencies and people that were creditors of AH Wilson came to the meeting and informed [the other agencies] of the situation we were in, so that was a good opportunity. They’re going to think of ways they can help us. It’s the start of a process, but I think we’ve done all we can do.”


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