Spirit of Fair(Isle)ness (Lise Sinclair)

In the spirit of fairness and very unofficially on behalf of the residents of Fair Isle, here are various progress options for the island, in line with the forward-thinking modernisations and leaps and bounds taken in other parts of Shetland during the last few decades, in order that we can also take part in the same level of cuts. As follows below:

• Reinstatement of the Fair Isle to Papa direct flight plane service;
• A high school;
• Move our healthcare access interface from its current 1960s style accommodation where privacy is nil and there is no room for a stretcher and various other unmentionable things;
• Access to actual dental treatment one day a year like in the old days;
• To have our secondary school bairns home for the long weekend (delete this progress idea if the measure above is implemented);
• A ferry which could go a little bit quicker, and enable travel for the more elderly or infirm along with the fit, the brave and the sea-sick;
• Modern road surfaces;
• Lighthouse keepers;
• Inclusion on maps of Shetland – according to GPS rather than the more geographically confusing “let’s just put them behind Fitful Head” option currently favoured;
• Leisure centre and playing field;
• Supermarket;
• To be plugged in to the electricity grid/broadband/digital services – please. NB: Failure to implement this progress will result in sabotage of the relay station on Fair Isle [demonic laughter] and the rest of Shetland can kiss all digital media goodbye;
• An award ceremony to celebrate the councillors and those workers who keep their focus on the whole of Shetland at once.

Suggested cuts:

• Fair Isle – Papa direct (a shame but you can’t have everything);
• Okay, we’ll send our bairns back to the old AHS and the old hostel, hope to see them every third weekend and count ourselves privileged;
• Move our healthcare provision into an old and temporary chalet with wheels – no, wait, that’s current planning;
• Put a dentist chair in the middle of the community hall so at least a check up can happen – no, wait, that’s what happens now;
• Don’t open the airport at weekends, don’t enable them to fly even if Saturday and Sunday are the only fine days in the week and just hope you’ve brought up your daughter well enough to cope with the street of Lerwick ower da heli (three cheers for the JCH);
• Keep on trucking with the ageing 25-year-old ferry across the longest and most uncomfortable stretch of water in Shetland while continuing to thwart the disabled, provide an endurance test for islanders and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for visitors;
• Ah well, good old clatch and patch;
• Okay, I know, nobody has lighthouse keepers but it was worth a try;
• Put us back beside Fitful so we can fit on the map where Shetland looks big. It makes the old boat journey a lot easier anyway;
• Nothing wrong with a guttery park and a swim in the sea;
• Only joking! We have a brilliant local shop where you can get everything you actually need – it just couldn’t get any better;
• Okay, we’ll carry on generating our own electricity for as long as we can, but we’d really rather not live in the middle ages of digital connectivity while the rest of the world moves on, please wire us in, hook us up and keep us chugging along with the rest of Shetland;
• Non-negotiable and include Orkneymen.

Lise Sinclair, Ian and Tom
Fair Isle.


Add Your Comment
  • W Conroy

    • February 29th, 2012 1:52

    I’ll never understand why someone would live on a remote island then moan about services they want that aren’t there.

    If you want things like good transport links, leisure centre, proximity to high school and so on I have this really wild idea that could help you… Move to Lerwick!

  • Michael Garriock

    • February 29th, 2012 10:44

    @ W. Conroy. I think you’re missing the point. The further you are from centres of population the less the levels of public services and facilities you get, both in quantity and quality. Ergo the greater “damage” will be done the further you are from centres of population by across the board % of spend cuts.

    The letter writer isn’t moaning about what services Fair Isle doesn’t have (unless in sarcasm to prove a point), rather pointing out that when you, and other similar locations for that matter, already only recieve not much, a 30% cut (or whatever is being bandied about) in funding of not much, leaves pretty much nothing at all. Unlike residents nearer centres of population where such a cut will almost certainly be noticed, and be inconvenient to users, it is highly unlikely to result in a virtual breakdown of any one service or facility.

    Or that’s how I read it anyway.

    Seems to me that a somewhat fairer method of applying cuts would be to reduce services and facilities on a sliding scale where they are superior first, before touching those in areas where there is only lesser provision. However, I may wel be biased, seeing as I’m 25 miles out from the big city myself, and only venture there when I really have no choice.

  • W Conroy

    • February 29th, 2012 14:43

    I’m not missing the point at all. Whether written in sarcasm or not there is a definite underlying moan there about the lack of services on Fair Isle.

    You see it as greater damage being done the further you go from centres of population whereas others will see it as necessary spending cuts to a few to save the services in areas of many. There’s what, 70 people on Fair Isle. Why should the majority suffer so the minority can gain? Why should a Lerwick tax payer be further subsidising a life choice of these people who, like you, choose to live away from the population centres (not that I blame them at all – I would love to live in the country)

    Don’t get me wrong – I would love for all the small communities to be able to have good healthcare, close schooling provisions, faster ferries and luxuries like leisure centres, etc. but it just isn’t practical.

    If they do what you suggest and reduce services on a sliding scale where they are superior first then the majority of people will suffer. Is it fair for the majority to suffer so the minority can have convenience?

  • Jim Leask

    • February 29th, 2012 16:19

    I was fortunate enough to spen 3 nights in Fair isle last year, although it was only supposed to be one but we got stranded due to fog and had an extra 2 nights to sample the delights of the island and its hospitality. The feeling I got from my short visit was not one of an island of moaners complaining about their lack of services, as Mr Conroy suggests, but one a community that works together to make the most of what they have.

    There is a community spirit in Fair Isle that is unrivaled in Shetland and what they acheive is done with substancially less assistance as many other communities in Shetland recieve.

    Maybe Mr Conroy should take a trip to Fair Isle over the summer and sample the community spirit (and hospitality) for himself….and there are even reduced rates during July for visitors to the fantastic new Bird Obsevatroy. http://www.fairislebirdobs.co.uk/

    You never know, you may be lucky enough to get ‘stranded’ for a couple of extra days like we did.

  • W.Conroy

    • February 29th, 2012 16:57

    @Jim Leask Where did I suggest that Fair Isle was an island of moaners? I said that this article was moaning about the lack of services even if it was hidden in sarcasm – That is very different!

    I believe you when you say that the people of Fair Isle have a great community spirit and show hospitality but unfortunately that isn’t taken into account when it comes to providing services.

    I’m glad the fantastic new bird observatory is offering reduced rates during July – It only cost the Shetland tax payer 1.5 million…

  • Jim Leask

    • March 1st, 2012 13:12

    @ W Conroy – Okay….perhaps I took your comment “I’ll never understand why someone would live on a remote island then moan about services they want that aren’t there” a little too far.

    With regards to your last comment on the cost to the Shetland tax payer; if tens or hundreds of thousands, or millions of pounds in many cases, can be regularly invested throughout the rest of Shetland in aquaculture, marine services, wind farms, engineering firms, public halls, craft industries, a cheese factory and a huge amount of other ventures, would you really begrudge Fair isle the support given to build the new Bird Observatory? ( Lets not even get into the money that has been squandered in failed or poorly concieved investments!)

    Not only does the Fair Isle Bird Obsevatory provide much needed employment and social benefits to a community on the edge (as do MOST of the afore mentioned investments), it also brings wider benefits to Shetland on a whole. When we stayed there, I’d estimate over half the fellow guests came to Shetland primarily to visit Fair Isle. Most were there to see it’s world famous bird population but a couple were interested in the history of Fair Isle knitting. Many of these visitors talked about other Shetland attractions they were planning to go and see or already had been to see. Without a suitable place for these visitors to stay during their trip, would that income for the whole of Shetland been lost?

    Community spirit may not have a part to play in how services are provided, but I was attempting to make the point that, (in my opinion) Fair isle is a community that gets on with what it has and does not seek an unfair or disproportionate piece of the pie.

    As an investment in a community like Fair Isle, and for the wider Shetland economy; is £1.5 million value for money over the lifetime of the building? I’m no expert but I’d whole heartedly say so!

  • W Conroy

    • March 1st, 2012 14:31

    I don’t actually grudge Fair Isle their new bird observatory, I just pointed that out as you said that Fair Isle received “substantially less assistance as many other communities in Shetland” – £1.5 Million seems to me to be quite a large amount of assistance from the council.

    I am glad they received the funding though. As you pointed out many people visit Shetland just to visit Fair Isle and it is good that the proper provisions are there to accommodate them. So much money is wasted on silly projects (Bressay bridge/tunnel springs to mind) it’s nice to see the money go to something worthwhile!

    I have to admit that I do think the full cost of £4 million was a heck of a lot of money to be spent on a building for looking at birds though! Just like in other projects (not just in Shetland but across the whole of the UK) the costs of construction seems to be reaching insane proportions…

  • Derick Tulloch

    • March 1st, 2012 18:41

    Lerwick: a far away place of which we keen little and care not a fig for
    Motto: it’ll be on da boat on Tuesday (i.e. never)

    Full marks to the Sinclair clan for the laugh anyway! Hey, wait a meenit… you’re no related to the Earl of Chipping Norton are you?

  • K. Coull

    • March 4th, 2012 21:43

    I made my home in Fair Isle 18 years ago. It seemed like a radical step to many of my ‘Sooth’ friends. They questioned, “How will you survive? There are no pubs, swimming pool, cinema, restaurants, shopping centre, resident doctor, dentist, bank, garage, theatre, coffee shops, galleries, trains, buses, sports centre ….” the list went on and on!! But it was my choice, because the things that matter to me are here.

    My concern is that those ‘things’; a vibrant, hard working, welcoming community; my livelihood and ability to provide hospitality, share knowledge and contribute to Shetland’s tourism and textile industries, may be under threat due to ill considered Council cuts, that will prove to save little, and have a disproportionate negative impact, far beyond the isle itself. (I speak for myself, but know others have the same, if not greater, concerns).

    A large percentage of Fair Isle’s visitors come via Shetland, they are doubly important people to the sustainability of Shetland’s tourism industry. Each one of them, having received the best possible attention, can become lifetime ‘Shetland Promoters’ and take a positive message, often across the world, as effectively as any advertising campaign. It does not make sense to cut the services we have on a community level because, they have always been minimal, lifeline, and have not developed apace with many other areas. (e.g. the max. number of people who can arrive or depart Fair Isle, by scheduled public transport, on the busiest ‘tourism’ day of the week, i.e. Sats. from May to Sept., weather permitting, is 26, less than one ‘equivalent bus’ full of folk.)

    It also makes little sense to penalise, not only Fair Isle’s main industry, but one of Shetland’s most renowned visitor attractions. SIC may save a few thousand pounds, but weigh it up with what stands to be lost due to the damage, not only to social, but economic viability. One of the things lost will surely be SIC’s already wavering credibility, not only in the heart of an island community, but in the eyes of its friends and visitors, the world over.

    SIC recently granted 1.5million towards a prestigious (transport dependent), thriving project, well supported by the community here too. So, keep the investment, and more, viable. Save a bit of face and future, without cutting our lifelines, and ultimately, your own noses off!

  • cariad Trill

    • March 6th, 2012 16:13

    This attitude towards smaller communities is par for the course with those in power. Have they not heard that F.I. knitting is famous the world over. Those living on F.I. are probably born and bred there with a few exceptions, so why should they be penalised. We stayed in the old Bird Observatory, and in recent years in the lighthouse. We have holidayed in the Shetland Isles so much that we now consider we are ‘going home’ each year even though we are southern England born and bred. The government dish out subsidies for the most undeserving so why not spare some of that money to keep our ‘heritage’ alive. Fair isle is a really magical place so let’s keep it like that and help the people who make it. Congratulations Lise, Ian and Tom let’s hope those fools in power show a little common sense for once.

  • Marina Thomason

    • March 7th, 2012 13:28

    I’m always a bit amused by people who describe others who are living on an outer island in Shetland as having made a “life-style choice” to do so. As someone has already pointed out many of these people are indigenous and would more readily describle it as “home”. Equally, I don’t think these same people have thought through what will happen if centralisation is allowed to continue unabated in Shetland. If the isles folks are made to feel somehow like second-rate citizens, “moaning” and undeserving then the staff at the 2 primary schools in Lerwick with over 300 pupils each better start moving the desks closer together and order some more – because we’re moving to an area near you.

  • W Conroy

    • March 8th, 2012 18:59

    @Marina Thomason… And I’m always amused by people that seems to think living in a remote community is not a lifestyle choice. Like any adult they have a choice of where they live, no-one forces them to stay there after all!

    “But why should they leave their home” I hear you ask.

    Like any lifestyle choice it has it’s pros and cons. Unfortunately in this case the price paid for staying at home in the beauty, peace and quiet is to have less services on the doorstep.

    Or maybe we should look at it from your view – The majority of people should suffer so the minority can gain? Lets take services away from the main population and spread it throughout the islands. For example we could make it so the doctors are more often than not sitting in empty offices in the country while there are huge queues in the town. Or maybe we could make the roads smooth on an island where cars are almost non existent and leave pot holes in the road where hundreds of cars travel every day?

    I agree that it’s awful when small communities are forced to integrate services to save money – I don’t wish it to be this way, I don’t want it to be this way but I’m afraid that’s just the way things are when these services can not be afforded. The needs of the many have to outweigh the needs of the few!

  • Christopher Ritch

    • March 9th, 2012 12:39

    “The needs of the many have to outweigh the needs of the few!”

    The same argument can be heard in Edinburgh about Lerwick…

  • Marina Thomason

    • March 11th, 2012 13:36

    @ WConroy, where did I say in my comment that I thought the majority should suffer for the few?

    The situation is far more complex then simply stating that island life is an expense which the rest of Shetland is having to pay for. I can only comment on the situation in Yell where a number of private businesses (mainly in aquaculture) is creating local employment and supporting local businesses in Lerwick. Take that away and you take away employment and the hundreds of thousands of pounds each year from companies in Lerwick. Taking your point of view that centralisation is the way to go then people will make the lifestyle choice to move in droves to central Shetland putting pressure on housing, jobs and schools amongst other services. I thought that the point Lise Sinclair was making was that they are already making sacrifices for living in a remote isle and certainly, I feel that we too pay the price (literally through ferry fares) for living on an isle and I’d just like to make it clear that I understand that and I am not moaning about it in any way shape of form, it is a fact of island life. The argument can equally be turned on it’s head about life-style choice – any adult living in a town with services which are under pressure are making a life-style choice.

    @ Christopher Ritch, yes they are having the same debate in Edinburgh, living in the Shetland Isles is a lifestyle choice and according to some the needs of the many have to outweight the needs of the few.

  • W Conroy

    • March 13th, 2012 1:57

    @Marina Thomason, If I offended in some way I apologize. I think I was feeling a little snooty at what I felt was you having a go at me and I type faster than I think too often!

    I guess the point I was (badly) trying to make is that surely it’s better to be centralising certain services in Shetland than risk losing them altogether.

    As Mr Ritch said Edinburgh looks at Shetland in the same way. London looks at Edinburgh in the same way. We’re at the bottom of a very long food chain and our voices are very small!


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