Deluge is upon us now (Donald McDonald)

Arriving “on spec” in Shetland in June 1980, with our first child due that September, my wife and I quickly realised that we had landed on our feet – we were now members of a friendly and welcoming community in which people were valued for what they were, and for what they could contribute. I think that the Shetland of 2011 is still like that, with economic migrants (as I was) arriving almost daily and finding their place here.

However, today, our entire way of life is under threat, due to the draconian measures being imposed on us from Westminster and, it has to be said, from Holyrood. The Scottish government, Cosla and all of the elected councillors throughout Scotland, appear to be incapable of organising any concerted action against the financial cuts that are destined to cripple our public services. Shetland is at particular risk from this due to its unique geographical position. Our local councillors, while galvanised by issues like plastic litter and a campaign against an arts venue that could bring huge benefits to all of us, seem to be as dumb, powerless and speechless as a row of haddocks on a fishmonger’s slab when it comes to speaking out against the budgetary axe that is now being wielded by a bunch of ruthless politicians, bureaucrats and accountants.

Little thought have they for the dire effect their actions will have on the communities that will pay the price for a bungling incompetence that is disguised as prudent management of the economy. And the Conservative government, backed by their feckless Lib Dem stooges, are laughing up their sleeves as they gleefully arrange for more and more public services to be dismantled and given over to the private sector.

As a grandparent, what worries me most is the threat to our schools in Shetland. The education authority is under extreme pressure to make savings. Teacher posts are being axed; everything is up for grabs when it comes to applying the cuts. How will teaching staff be attracted to come and work here in the future if the promoted post structure is degraded?

Teachers are currently being asked to implement a new and radical curriculum. How can they find the time to do this when they are expected to work to the very maximum of their contractual hours and with their classes filled towards the very maximum number of pupils? It is getting to the point where there is no slack left. And moreover, how can the new curriculum go forward when there is unlikely to be money available for textbooks and all the other resources required? That is why I am so concerned for my grand-daughter as she nears the end of her nursery education and looks forward to starting school.

But it is more than that – our health services, care for the elderly and our sporting facilities are all under serious threat.

It is time that we all started to fight back with determination against the cuts, by writing to, and lobbying, councillors, MSPs and MPs, by organising ourselves through our trade unions, and by any other means possible.

Councillors, please note that Shetland’s oil fund was intended for a rainy day. Well, the deluge is bloody well full upon us right now!

Donald McDonald
Boddam Schoolhouse.


Add Your Comment
  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 3rd, 2011 18:47

    This man could be the next Labour Chancellor, spend, spend, spend, and then when you are overdrawn and maxed out on your credit cards rob the kids piggy bank.

  • Brian Smith

    • October 4th, 2011 6:47

    How dare you raise these questions, Donald.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 4th, 2011 13:44

    Ah now is this irony or sarcasm or just bulls**t.

  • Dave Heaney

    • October 4th, 2011 16:54

    Well said Donald the truth will always come out, as a very wealthy little island which done deals way back at the start of the Oil rush for the benefit of all the Islanders I find it very strange that Shetlands should be cutting back on services in any sector.

    The major Oil and GAS countries like Norway have one of the highest standard’s of living in the world. Yet Scotland with the same population and the same if not more Oil and Gas facilities is cutting back ! !

    Some people like Mr B Smith seem to think we should not ask questions why? Our role is to question eveything, every councillor, MP etc make them stand to account, if they can’t get rid of them. Keep up the good fight.

    Dave Heaney

  • Colin Hunter

    • October 4th, 2011 18:16

    Yes Gordon! A Labour Chancellor in the making as you say! It’s high time the people of Shetland and the rest of the UK started living within their means. Also high time people stopped whingeing on to the council wanting more and more, in a time when we can actually afford less and less.
    I was born here, I didn’t just arrive and realise that I had “landed on my feet” as he so aptly puts it. That, in common with many others who came here and, after realising what a soft touch we were, (the downside of being friendly and welcoming!) sent for their relatives and old folk, who now inhabit many of the places in Shetland’s shelter housing and various care homes, to the point where indigenous Shetlanders, in need of a bit of TLC in their old age, can’t get in the door!
    Regarding schools, I can remember sharing text-books when I was a lad. That and having to carry in coal to keep the fire going in the winter. Progress has thankfully done away with the latter, but there is no reason why kids can’t learn to share again. The biggest question that begs to be asked, is why keep changing the curriculum in the first place? 1+1is still 2 as far as I know, unless you’re an accountant for Shetland Arts when it could be anything at all!
    There is no merit whatever in crying for the Charitable trust money to be spent, just to prop up the building and day to day running expenses of various establishments that we don’t really need. I cite Mareel (STILL not finished!) and the many “Leisure Centres” among that number. Life will go on quite happily without them, as it did before they were built. Money only spends once, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. Forever! Things that are necessary, like looking after our elderly and vulnerable people should take precedence. Health, education and transport next, then anything else, the “luxuries” in life that so many people now seem to be unable to do without should be relegated to the very bottom of the pile, if they’re on it at all!

  • donald mcdonald

    • October 4th, 2011 18:21

    It’s down to the fundamental keystone of any decent, modern civilised society – good public services and welfare provision paid for by a fair regime of taxation.

  • Colin Hunter

    • October 5th, 2011 10:44

    Dave Heaney has just hit the nail squarely on the head when ha asks why “Oil Rich” Scotland, which he compares to Norway, should be cutting back at all, and our “wealthy little Island” apparently should be able to afford everything. Well sir! The truth is somewhat different. Apart from the very small levy on oil crossing the council’s jetties in Sullom Voe, and Harbour charges which now barely cover the running costs, Shetland actually gets very little direct benefit from the oil. The Charitable trust was built up during the “boom” days, which are now long gone. We have to preserve the trust and live within the means of the money that is made from its investments. That’s why I say, “once it’s gone, it’s gone!”
    Other than “Council tax” which is levied on individual households, ALL other monies raised from individual income tax and ALL businesses in Scotland, including Oil, goes directly to Westminster. Scotland then gets a handout from the UK government which is worked out under the “Barnett Formula”. Wales and Northern Ireland are funded in the same way. This article in the Telegraph makes interesting, and informative reading. Whether you believe that England is “subsidising” Scotland or not is up to you. Many English people do!
    Historically, almost all the monies generated by oil revenues have been used to fund the UK membership of the EU, and vanished, never to be seen again. That is the MAJOR difference between Scotland and Norway. Norway gets to keep their oil money, we don’t! And then people wonder why Alex Salmond and the SNP are doing so well, and why so many Scottish people yearn for self determination.

  • douglas young

    • October 5th, 2011 15:45

    I feel Brian’s posting oozes with sabre-sharp sarcasm, and had the desired effect.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 5th, 2011 19:33

    A sarcastic person has a superiority complex that can be cured only by the honesty of humility.

    Douglas it is a dull person who basks in someone else’s limelight, and I fear he may live in the shadow of others for ever.

    If you read Dave Heaney’s comment you will of course notice Brian’s sarcasm was completely lost on him.

  • donald mcdonald

    • October 19th, 2011 0:47

    Mr Hunter, you were “born here”, as were so many others from Shetland and other parts of the British Isles who migrated to various parts of the world and “landed on their feet”. What we should all be proud of is our common east African ancestry, our common humanity, our innate tendency to wander and sail to the farthest reaches of the planet – out of necessity, and maybe sometmes just curiosity.

    Please explain to myself and all the economic migrants who, for years, perhaps decades and prior to that, have worked hard and contributed to the local economy and social fabric, what you mean by “a soft touch”.

    Your insinuations are deeply insulting to so many folk here in the Shetland of 2011 – I suggest that you reconsider what you have written, and possibly withdraw some of your more inflammatory remarks.

    Also try to understand and appreciate the enormous benefits that are being realised from arts and sports related activites in these islands, particularly for our young people.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 19th, 2011 14:11

    Colin Hunter. What hypocrasy, were the English a soft touch when they helped you?
    I quote from your previous correspondence. In your own words “from the age of 16 to 30 I was employed by the Blue Star Line, an English Shipping company out of London and Liverpool. I did all my Certificates of Competency in English Colleges, Southampton, Hull and South Shields, having served your Cadetship at Southampton College of Technology from 1971 to 1975.”  Colin; your deeply insulting neo-racist, comment does yourself no favors.

  • Colin Hunter

    • October 19th, 2011 16:05

    Shetland is now vastly different from the place I left at 16 years old in 1971. It has changed immeasurably in that time, and not, I fear, for the better. I am merely giving voice to the thoughts of many people who, like myself, have become more and more disenchanted with the path that this so called progress is taking. True, it is more prosperous, but with that prosperity has come the disadvantages associated with it, such as drug abuse, which was all but unheard of back then.
    There have, however, been some changes for the better. With the advent of the NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, our young men (and now women too) no longer have to travel to the Mainland to learn seamanship or engineering skills to gain employment. It is unfortunate that the “Merchant Navy” is no longer the employer that it was, with most of the old established companies now having disappeared, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of successive Westminster Governments who eventually taxed them out of existence, and into the hands of Foreign flag companies such as Maersk.
    Regarding whether the English were a “Soft touch” of not I can definitely say no to that, being the only “Scot” in an intake of 72 that year. Believe me when I say I had to fight for everything I got! I chose to return to English Colleges for later Certificates, due mainly to their reputation. The courses were not free, (other than my apprenticeship) and had to be paid for personally by the individual, so I do not look upon it as “help” as you put it. I was a paying customer who chose to pay them rather than some other establishment, regardless of nationality.
    One of the most valuable lessons I learnt, was that, when you are a guest in another country, you should not make unreasonable demands and just be thankful for the small mercies you did get. However, I’m back in my own homeland now and I’m quite happy to repeat the same phrase that was said to me on many occasions before I returned. “If you don’t like it, you know what to do”!

  • ian tinkler

    • October 19th, 2011 20:18

    That is very sad, Colin. I think most Shetlanders regard themselves as British as well as Scots. Your final comment speaks volumes. Fortunately I do not think many regard such comments as worthy, anyone of that opinion and comments of that type are best ignored and forgotten. Carrying a grudge is not a good life move, nor returning hurtful experiences in your own past on others. That is how bigotry, racism and prejudices are created. What Donald McDonald stated is true “Your insinuations are deeply insulting to so many folk here in the Shetland of 2011 – I suggest that you reconsider what you have written, and possibly withdraw some of your more inflammatory remarks”

  • John Tulloch

    • October 19th, 2011 21:15

    Anyone who “doesn’t like it” has three options, accept it, absent oneself or speak up and try to change it. Leaving should, generally, be the last option i.e. when you can’t accept a situation and are unable, using reasonable means, to achieve an acceptable change.

    Not voicing complaints simply raises the temperature in a pressure cooker and not listening to complaints is like sabotaging the relief valve so that it sticks closed. If the pressure inside the pot becomes higher than the pot can stand…the ingredients will be revolting!

    Most people would leave (if they can) before the pot bursts.

  • Dave Heaney

    • October 19th, 2011 22:21

    The Boom days are gone?( Colin Hunter) correct me if I am wrong but there is a new gas development going on is there not? this is the time for leases to be negotiated by the services of experienced Oil and Gas Solicitors who have worked for communities world wide, and not left to some local councillors who can be bought of by a Dinner, a drink, and a funny handshake. This Gas project will last for years to come and there should be jobs for every shetlander who wants to work on these sites. The Oil & Gas companies could set up a trade school which would give apprenticeships to evey school leaver who wants one, they could learn all the trades required to run these facilities. This reduces the jobs going to people who have no historical, or family ties to the island. One only has to look at the situation regarding your Old folks homes etc let me put it this way under the SNP no old age person has to pay for care, this is not so in England & Wales where they are made to sell their home to pay upwards of £350 a week. So if you hear or see outside workers bringing their elderly parents from down south to live on the island this could be the reason why.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 20th, 2011 12:57

    Dave Heaney you should hang your head in shame, by saying what you have said about our councillors you have besmirched and insulted the good name of many good and honest men. It was the foresight and tenacity of past Shetland councillors who brokered a deal with the oil companies that established the charitable trust fund. These true and honest men are responsible for the world beating elderly care homes (not the SNP) and other community projects which are here for everyone’s benefit.
    You should be made to apologise for you remarks as its people like Edward Thomason and Ian Clark who have made Shetland the place for outsiders to come and land firmly on their feet. People like you who bad mouth our council should try to do their job, reading what you have written makes me think we would be in a sorry state if you got the chance.
    And just to wise you up a bit Total are already taking young Shetlander’s and training them, it is their policy and a well published policy at that.

  • Ron Stronach

    • October 20th, 2011 13:25

    I think this original thread has wandered slightly, if we are talking schools, I agree with what Colin Hunter said as I too am in the same age group, I too left Shetland in 1971 at 16.
    I had 40+ bairns in my secondary class at school, and there were 3 classes to the year as I suppose we were the babyboomers you hear about. Shetland education was excellent even with those level of classes and sharing books.
    So what’s the problem there?
    Scotland and Norway, well economists will tell you that Britian spent the “oil money” on everyday activities proping up the economy, while Norway didn’t they used theirs to improve the country and standard of living?

    Cut backs are required, how can any government/council carry on spending money beyond their income, its impossible. If there are too many schools, too many teachers then cuts are required. How many pupils to a Shetland class these days?
    People in England say to me, you must have been lucky at school very small classes, I have to laugh, as they thought a class size of 30 was big.

    As for being a Shetlander, I am very proud of it, I also believe in a United Kingdom, and do not hold anything against anybody – well apart from perhaps the Welsh.

    David Heaney is also correct, old folkes homes in England charge a fortune for people to stay, I think the figure quoted though is a little low – certainly in the Southeast its a lot higher.
    So welcome to Shetland you sooth moothers and bide a while. – but save room for me in my old age!

  • John Tulloch

    • October 20th, 2011 17:41

    Under the SNP, no-one has to pay for “Personal Care” i.e.they get some money to pay for taxis to get them out and about and hairdressers, etc,. to visit their homes. That money is a fraction of what it costs to stay in an old folks home, even in Shetland, now that the Charitable Trust, needing all its money for other, presumably, more important, projects (conveniently, the tax man has been brought out to take the blame).

    Perhaps one of Gordon’s hallowed SIC councillors will explain exactly how much it costs to stay in an “old folks home” in Shetland?

    Or perhaps Messrs Heaney and Stronach will consider researching the facts and let us know what they find out?

  • Dave Heaney

    • October 20th, 2011 19:58

    Gordon Hamer: Councillors including Mr Thomason ans Mr Clark did what they thought was right at that time in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Things are totally different in todays world. You quote the charitable trust one minute then say “when its gone it’s gone” giving the impression your
    income stream is about to dry up. You sir should be saying the following ” We the charitable trust have engaged the services of the Worlds leading negoitators in the oil and Gas industry”
    who will ensure that the residents of the Shetlands get the best deal available year in year out for the next fifty years. The Shetlanders not incomers must come first. From the landowners perspective an Oil/Gas company seeking a lease is gemerally a welcome sight this means substantial income for any council or charitable trust. But old agreements are old agreements, this is 2011 when the lease for Sullom Voe were agreed it is fair to say that Shetland Isles council did their best, it was their first exposure to Oil and Gas companies who have a far superior experiences of leases. Beacause of the legal nature of leasing arrangements an inexperienced council may be at a disadvantage when dealing with large Multi nationals.
    Non experts should not be allowed to speak on behalf of the whole population and should seek to employ Experts to deal with large Muli nationals. The Beauty of the landscape and the way of life should be protected for generations to come. Council meeting must be open and transparent with the public allowed to have their say, all terms or proposals put forward to the charitable trust and council regarding future developments and lease agreements should be printed in the Shetland Times and residents views sought. The Shetlands is part and parcel of Scotland georaphically,and historically and the Scottish people want what is best for Scotland. This would mean no cut backs on a small island cheaper fuel, for homes and buisnesses cut price travel on public transport care for the old and vulnerable( C Hunter)
    full employment for all Shetlanders first and formost, and educational facilities for all ages to name but a few ideas. This is not pie in the Sky it’s there on your door step and you Sir should Not be invited to the negotiations.

  • Colin Hunter

    • October 20th, 2011 21:48

    Dave Heaney may well be correct about the old folks homes down south charging a fortune, but he is unaware that exactly the same situation exists here regarding assets and if an old person has more than a certain amount of savings then they are charged for the service. Up to £1082 a WEEK!
    It is only if the person is unable to pay that the care is free. Not a very fair system really, in that anyone who has paid for and maintained their own home is then penalised for so doing!
    So! If it’s not that which is the draw, then it must be the quality and the way of life which is so attractive.
    How many people come here and declare what a wonderful place it is, then after a few months, start moaning that there’s no this, no that, and the council should do something about it. That is the thing that annoys me the most. If where people came from was so great and there’s so much that they miss, why did they leave to come here in the first place?
    These Islands provide a natural unparalleled and built in recreation facility which is second to none. Look around you and you will see what I mean. And best of all, It’s FREE!
    Then there’s a top class education system, with free accommodation in Lerwick for Isles pupils wishing to extend their education beyond 4th year. The SIC already spends more per child than just about any other local authority.
    Close to every secondary school is a leisure centre and swimming pool which have been provided in recent years from oil money.
    On top of that, every community has a Hall which has either been built or refurbished with money provided from the same pot.
    Then, of course, the care centres.
    If we accept that we already have all that, how can you possibly complain that it’s not enough?
    The SIC originally wanted to close four primary schools but, true to form. they wimped out on the two Mailnland schools, singling Uyeasound and Burravoe out for closure. That was then called in by the education minister, who yesterday decided to spare Burravoe and close Uyeasound. Yet another misery heaped on Unst that the people there could well have done without. Consider the events of recent years.
    Unst Airport: Closed, Business transferred to Scatsta.
    Haroldswick Primary: Closed, Pupils transferred to Baltasound JHS.
    RAF Saxavord: Closed. Buildings being used as a “Holiday destination”
    And now Uyeasound Primary to be closed.
    The closure of the SIC owned and operated airport, and the camp caused the loss of 200 jobs in a community of about 1100 which has since plummeted to about 650. When you take all that and put it into context, I don’t think you have a lot to complain about. I apologise if I have inadvertently “upset” anybody with my remarks, but I bet you’re nowhere near as upset as the kids in Uyeasound are just now.

  • D Sandison

    • October 21st, 2011 10:46

    I wonder how C Hunter definies a ‘Shetlander’, how does he classify the people born in Aberdeen as their parents have been sent to Aberdeen hospital to have them? or the ones who elect to go to Aberdeen to have their children? Surely this would be a dilema for him as they are born in Aberdeen so not ‘true Shetlanders’? Also does he mean that a person who moves to Shetland then goes on to have child (born in GBH), the parent has less rights in Shetland than the child who would be of course a true Shetlander! Comments like his is shameful in this day and age. That is how segregation and resentment grow.

  • Kate Gallant

    • October 21st, 2011 12:45

    I am saddened to read the continuing anti-soothmoother comments reflected in these remarks. Shetland is a fantastic place to live – because of its community mostly. Shetland needs incomers and their families to add diversity and skiills – their contributions should be valued. Making them unwelcome is not the way to a future successful island community. Cuts in services are being experienced all over the UK at the moment. What Shetland needs to consider like all others facing this situation is what are the communities priorities, how it can continue to deliver excellent services. How can Shetland provide services to protect those who are most vulnerable to cuts from elsewhere (for instance cuts in welfare benefits which will hit the poorest in the community) and have a debate which values diversity and the strengths of Shetland’s communities. I hope that others with a more positive approach (and I know you are many) will let your voices be heard in this continuing debate. With warm regards. Kate Gallant

  • Colin Hunter

    • October 21st, 2011 16:05

    The definition of a “Shetlander” is, I would imagine, someone who has at least one leg of their ancestry rooted in the isles, who was raised and went to school here and can speak, or at least understand and make a shape at the dialect. I was raised in Haroldswick, a stones throw from the RAF station, so I was exposed to people from “sooth” from an early age, and there used to be a steady stream of RAF lads through our door. Many of my school pals at Haroldswick School, and later Baltasound and the Anderson Institute, were from RAF or service oriented families. I’m still in touch with some of them.
    I wouldn’t say I’m anti “Soothmoother” ( Not my term, I have never used it in ANY communication) per se, seeing as how I’m married to one and have been these past 25 years! I will make myself perfectly clear on this point though. I do not like change for the sake of it and I don’t much care for anyone who wants to change things that don’t need changing. And that goes for Shetlanders as well as incomers. I have absolutely nothing against anyone from anywhere settling here, or anywhere else in the UK for that matter. Just so long as they do their work, pay their taxes and try their best to fit in.
    As has been pointed out by others, Shetland IS a great place to live, so let’s just try and keep it that way. If cuts need to be made because of the previous Governments inability to manage the economy, then so be it. It’s a sad fact of life that some people will be more affected by cuts than others, I refer you to the people of Uyeasound, but, as I have said before, there is nothing to be gained by spending the Islands nest egg to provide the luxuries we could easily do without. For instance, the £5m or so that the SIC gave to the Mareel project could have kept the Uyeasound school going for another 50 Years, and the interest alone from that amount would have funded BOTH Uyeasound and Burravoe Schools, year on year!

  • Gordon Harmer

    • October 21st, 2011 22:35

    Dave Heaney, Edward Thomason and company did not merely do what they thought was right they did what was absolutely right for Shetland. They as elected Shetland representatives new what was right for us and we have all benefited because of their good judgement. Of course they would have had legal advice but they as our representatives made the correct decision.
    Nothing is different today we have voted our councilors in and they have a duty to represent us. They as the Shetland council with their own legal back up know far better what is good for us than a group of expensive out of town layers.
    “Non experts should not be allowed to speak on behalf of the whole population and should seek to employ Experts to deal with large Multi nationals”. Man are you for real? those non experts are voted in to make such decisions by us, to speak on our behalf.
    Just where did I quote the charitable trust and go on to say “when its gone its gone”? You have the nerve to slag of the council and say they get it wrong then you quote me as saying something Colin Hunter said, the words kettle pot and black spring to mind.
    Your right about one thing, its not pie in the sky, its pure and unadulterated fiction and I am glad I am not invited to the negotiations (what ever that means).
    Oh and by the way your use of past facts and figures about our council reminds me of a drunken man using a lamp post for support rather than illumination.

  • donald mcdonald

    • November 5th, 2011 21:40

    I see myself as a Shetlander/Highlander/Glaswegian – does anyone think there is problem with my thinking?

  • Ron Stronach

    • November 7th, 2011 12:17

    soonds lik a sooth moother tae da rest o wis

  • Colin Hunter

    • November 7th, 2011 12:53

    I personally think Burns says it far better than I ever could.

    “O wad some Power the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!
    It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
    An’ foolish notion:
    What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
    An’ ev’n devotion!”


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