Letter from Edinburgh

The Lonely Planet is a great publication. It’s a go-to travel guide book on everywhere and anywhere in the world. My sister, being rather better travelled, has a mountain of them.

But it’s not just family who read them – the publication is in every bookshop you pass. So this week The Lonely Planet has given Shetland some great publicity by putting the isles in the top 10 of places to visit anywhere in the world. Tuesday’s newspaper coverage featured lots of predicable and welcome images of the isles from Viking longships in flame to gannets on the Noss cliffs, a very positive fillip for our local tourism industry.

On Monday afternoon I was sitting in the car at Belmont, waiting for the Bluemull Sound ferry, when the phone started ringing. A journalist from The Herald in Glasgow demanded an appropriate word or two on this exciting tourism development. Some lines were hastily cobbled together. “Could I write that you’re in Unst today?” Yes seemed the obvious answer. Always best to give a straight reply to a journalist’s question if at all possible!

Then The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and other assorted newspapers demanded comment. This is when the agile fingers of the press team kick in. A high-speed dictation of these words into the computer in Edinburgh had to be achieved before the car was summoned on to the ferry, where mid-sound, the mobile phone signal disappears. Mobile phone signal disappearing in some parts of Shetland is often a blessing I’m grateful for!

I was returning from Baltasound Junior High School. Along with Nicole Mouat, Emily Shaw and Martin Summers, I had been promoting Shetland Voice for young Shetlanders and we answered questions on numerous areas of interest. The other three had been in Edinburgh last weekend for a meeting of the Scottish Youth Parliament.

Once a year their deliberations, debates and policy motions are discussed in the Holyrood Parliamentary Chamber. By all accounts the issues looked at, such as organ donation and whether you should opt in or out of such a system, were hotly contested.

Parliament debated the final stages of a Housing Bill this week which, apart from some serious issues of policy, featured a spirited and entertaining verbal dust up between the Tories’ David McLetchie and the SNP’s Alex Neil. I know that we should concentrate on just the policy but a good debate, with plenty of humour, enlivened the parliamentary afternoon.

The dramatic news that the South Mainland Up-Helly-A’ has departed from decades of conventional precedent in choosing a new prospective jarl has given those who were struggling with an idea for this year’s Lerwick festival a much-needed boost. Many, many thanks.

Tavish Scott MSP


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