Past Life

From Shetland Life, November 1986, No.73

(Extract from) Editorial comment

Within the last few months Shetland’s economic outlook has darkened considerably. For the first time since the start of the oil construction boom there has been a considerable reduction in the number of “permanent” oil-related jobs and the downturn in oil activity, allied to the drop in the price of crude oil, has been reflected in reduced income for both Lerwick Harbour Trust and Shetland Islands Council. There is still a lot of heat in the industry that has primed the economy for the past 12 years or so but there are clear signs that it will not last forever.

The council has also reappraised its policy with regard to spending its own oil income. No longer will a desirable project automatically get assistance from the SIC. That is demonstrated by the recent crisis in the Reawick Lamb Marketing Company which has now called in the receiver.

This was a project that deserved to succeed. It was set up with the main objective of helping crofters by finding outlets for small hill lambs and it has proved a boon to the whole industry. It was an uphill struggle for the directors but they had some outstanding success. It is ironic that just when the better markets were within their grasp their backers seem to have lost patience and “pulled the plug out”. Without knowing all the facts, however, it is futile to try to apportion blame for the disappointing end to a brave venture.

There is much uncertainty at present concerning the future of the slaughterhouse at Reawick. Will the receiver decide to sell it as a going concern or will the equipment be dismantled and sold? Attention now focuses on the attempts to form a producers’ co-operative to operate a slaughterhouse to be built to EEC standards. Will this succeed where the private concern ultimately had to admit defeat?

One thing is certain – Shetland needs such a slaughterhouse to ensure a market for its lamb in the future. There is no guarantee that the practice of shipping out live lambs will continue indefinitely. In any case it seems a misuse of raw material to export, live, a product that could provide employment by being processed in Shetland.


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