Threat to 40 jobs and future of museum from new council cuts

Up to 40 public sector workers could be made redundant and the award-winning Shetland Museum and Archives may be turned into “nothing more than a large storage facility” if the SIC presses ahead with huge new proposed cuts.

That is the dire warning from Shetland Amenity Trust, which owns and runs the popular museum at Lerwick’s Hay’s Dock, in an explosive open letter addressed to all councillors today.

At a meeting on Wednesday, trustees were “deeply shocked” to learn that proposals for a 35 per cent cut to the museum budget over the next three years could go before councillors later this year.

Budgets for other services provided by the amenity trust on behalf of the council, including tourist body Promote Shetland and architectural heritage, are also expected to take a sizeable hit.

Chairman Brian Gregson warned that, in addition to the prospect of 20 redundancies within the museum, other “drastic” cuts would threaten a further 20 jobs within the trust.

The museum’s budget for 2012/13 stands at a shade over £1 million, already down nine per cent from last year.

Mr Gregson said SIC development director Neil Grant had informed senior trust staff that he would be recommending a further 35 per cent cut in the next three years, reducing funding to £681,000.

In the trust’s letter, Mr Gregson states: “While the trust is well aware of the financial difficulties faced by the council, these proposals, if implemented, would virtually close down the museum and archives services in Shetland. This would essentially turn the building into nothing more than a large storage facility.”

The £12 million museum was opened in 2007 and has since won a succession of prestigious awards. Mr Gregson described it as “the jewel in Shetland’s crown of heritage and culture”, attracting over 83,000 visitors every year.

As well as being a magnet for tourists, in 2012 alone almost two thirds of Shetland schoolchildren have been through the building’s doors.

Slashing the museum’s budget in this manner, Mr Gregson continued, would be “completely unsustainable”. Such a move also “flies in the face of the spirit and substance” of agreements between the trust, the SIC and the heritage lottery fund.

There is also anger within the trust at the way the proposed cuts are being handled. Sources said it felt as if the 35 per cent reduction was effectively being presented as a “done deal”, even though the proposals have yet to be viewed – let alone approved – by councillors.

In his letter, Mr Gregson says the absence of “any form of consultation or negotiation is lamentable”. On that point, Mr Grant told this newspaper the measures had been presented to amenity trust staff as part of an exercise to gather views before proposals are finalised.

Appealing to councillors to reject cuts to trust-run services, Mr Gregson writes: “Shetland Amenity Trust trustees are determined to take a firm stand on this issue to ensure that this magnificent success, the past investment made and its potential benefit is not lost to future generations.”

Under the terms of a 25-year agreement with the SIC, the trust has to provide buildings to house the museum and archives collections. It also operates both services, and in return the council must provide funding to cover the running costs.

Mr Gregson said that when the project for a new museum was getting up and running, the heritage lottery fund “sought and received” assurances from the council that funding “at an appropriate level would be maintained into the future including allowance for inflation”.

But the trust has calculated that there has been a 27 per cent cut in real terms, he said, with this year’s £1.035 million budget “already substantially below” what had been promised.

It is unclear precisely what impact a £350,000-a-year cut in museum funding would mean for its opening hours. One option not open to the amenity trust is introducing admission charges, which is prohibited under Scottish laws guaranteeing free entry to public museums.

Officials and most senior councillors have consistently said that they want to avoid compulsory redundancies within the SIC wherever possible.

But some sources this week were privately wondering whether that also applied to cutbacks resulting in job lay-offs within other organisations which rely on council funding. Not including the Hay’s Dock café/restaurant, the museum has 13 full time and 22 part time or seasonal staff.

The proposed cuts to amenity trust-run services form part of efforts to address the council’s crippling £35 million budget deficit. Other arms-length bodies are likely to be asked to absorb big cuts too.

Unison branch chairman Brian Smith said this week that he had been trying without success to get information about the council’s “directors for change” initiative for some time. Senior SIC officials have been tasked, along with ex-NHS chief executive Sandra Laurenson, with identifying big money-saving measures in most areas of council spending.

At the next Full Council meeting in early December, cost-cutting proposals will be tabled which are designed to reflect councillors’ priorities. At a series of seminars this summer, members indicated a desire to protect spending on services for the young and elderly, in particular education and social care.

In a short statement yesterday afternoon, an SIC spokeswoman said a medium term financial plan had been agreed in September aimed at balancing the local authority’s budget by 2017.

“Service managers are now preparing service proposals for councillors to consider later in the year,” she said.

“Where these proposals involve grants or service agreements with third parties, officers are holding discussions with the third party partners concerned to investigate where these savings can be made, where more effective service delivery can be achieved, and where services can be reduced or changed.

“At this stage Shetland Amenity Trust [has] been asked for [its] feedback on these proposals.”

One council source said everyone knew that “difficult decisions” were needed to get spending under control. While the museum is a highly valued public service, the source said nothing was “untouchable” and if councillors wished to protect schools, ferries and care homes then “something else is going to have to suffer”.


Add Your Comment
  • ian tinkler

    • October 18th, 2012 13:02

    It “Mareel” will become as landmark a building for the future of Shetland culture as the Museum and Archives is for the past. It is, after all, our culture that makes us unique. “R Lowes”. I once referred to this quote as pretensions rubbish. How I have been so proved right! How long before our brand new “Rave nightclub and drinking center” goes the some way, before or after we lose all our rural schools for lack of funds?. You could just not make it up!!!

  • James Stewart

    • October 18th, 2012 13:11

    Unverified myth tells us that during World War II, Churchill’s advisors pleaded with him to cut the arts and science budget so that the UK could invest more fully in the war. When asked to explain why he refused he responded “to remind us what we are fight­ing for.”

  • S M Burns

    • October 18th, 2012 13:28

    We can all agree that economies need to be made, partly because the council has wasted so much money dithering about schemes they couldn’t afford, and paying consultants to tell them so, But given that tourism is, as this article points out, a major source of income in the islands, this threat to the popular museum sounds like a very false economy.

  • Robert Lowes

    • October 18th, 2012 14:36

    What exactly have you been proven right about Ian, other than your own inflated sense of self-importance?

  • paul barlow

    • October 18th, 2012 14:47

    will these muppets in the town hall never learn. breach the undertakings and face another court case. very silly

  • Alison Bain

    • October 18th, 2012 15:13

    The Shetland museum is such a wonderful award winning asset to the community as a brilliant education tool – our kids are often coming home telling us what they’ve seen and done at the museum that day – an ever changing art gallery for local and visiting artists, a “family day out” spot and a fantastic Tourist trap both without and especially with its excellent cafe/restaurant. Surely the council couldn’t be so short sighted to see all this and protect it by thinking extremely carefully about any cuts made to the museum’s budget… PLEASE!!

  • David Spence

    • October 18th, 2012 16:23

    It is very sad that such an unique and valuable part of Lerwick and Shetlands ‘ recorded ‘ heritage, history and culture could be under threat due to, lets face it, the most corrupted rooks (interpret as you will) in our society becoming greedy, profit orientated and ultimately selfish (biggest traits of capitalism) representatives within our society, the banks and other financial institutions. It is a consequence of their behaviour which has caused so much grief, heart-ache, misery and deprivation as well as Councils having to slash budgets and services (opening the door for the even greater rooks in society…..the private sector taking over state run services…..the plan the Tories (the only good Tory is a ……….) have always wanted to instigate for the sake of the minority (private sector and business) at the cost of the majority (the population at large). Close the Leisure Centres, they are of little use to the community and cost, more than likely, more than what some of the schools this Council is proposing to close. Stuff Sport, keep what is valuable to our community and society……history, culture, heritage and music.

  • Marina Thomason

    • October 18th, 2012 16:30

    The museum and archives is certainly a very nice thing to have but it relies almost entirely on being funded by subsidies, and this is money that the SIC can no longer provide at the level it has been. As for the cafe for the financial year 2010/11 (quote) ” the accounts show that Hay’s Dock Cafe run as a subsidiary company wholly owned by Shetland Amenity Trust, made a net loss of 12,231 pounds”. (unquote) If it is running at a loss the cafe should be rented out to a run by a private company, the same as the cafe at the Clickimin Centre.

    Whereas the provision of a library is a statutory requirement of a local authority a museum doesn’t have to be provided. Councillor Drew Ratter was on Radio Shetland last night saying that the finances of the Charitable Trust were relatively healthy in comparison to the SIC’s so why can’t the Charitable Trust make up the short-fall in funding until the SIC’s financial situation improves?

  • Colin Hunter

    • October 18th, 2012 17:15

    My opinion of Mareel and the “AFB” is already well documented within these pages, so I won’t revisit that particular subject. I have also been known to say, regarding the Leisure centres, that the people who want them and even say we NEED them, are the ones who should bear the cost of running them.
    It is a shame that admission charges cannot be introduced, because the Museum is probably the only public amenity I would be perfectly happy to pay an entry fee for.
    Again I say it is a question of what we want, versus what we need. We NEED schools and educational facilities. We NEED a decent transport infrastructure, namely ferries due to the fact that this is an island county.
    Conversely, only some people WANT Mareel, Only some people WANT leisure centres and yet it is into these facilities that money seems to pour unchecked!
    Close the schools and the museums if you must. The result will be an entire generation of stupid children. The upside of that is that there will then be an inexhaustible supply of future councillors!

  • Johan Adamson

    • October 18th, 2012 17:16

    I agree with Marina, and also the cafe is decorated and is run in a way that private individuals could never afford to do, and they cannot compete with. The shop could also be run by a private company.

    I am quite shocked that more than 20 people work in the museum & archives, that does seem like quite a few staff whereas historically only a couple of people would have worked in the museum and a couple in the archives, so I think there are savings to be made – but not so much as to shut it entirely

  • morag macinnes

    • October 18th, 2012 19:21

    is this what Alistair Buchan suggested before he left? To un fund proper cultural development? If you canna fund thinkers and keepers and makers, you’ve had it!

  • Ivan Coghill

    • October 18th, 2012 19:26

    In case “the suits” haven’t noticed, it costs £6 for a sandwich and £9 for a burger in “the community cafe”. In case “the suits” don’t know, this excludes a large section of the community on low incomes from what should be a public facility. Those responsible for this should go. They have been responsible for dividing the community.

  • John Inkster

    • October 18th, 2012 22:25

    The museum is a great facility and attraction for locals and visitors to Shetland. The schools in Shetland provide excellent education for our children. The leisure facilities provide fantastic exercise and sport opportunities for Shetland people, especially so in a part of the world where winter makes such activities outdoors difficult. Mareel appears to be very popular. All the care homes in Shetland provide exceptionally good care for the elderly.

    Shetland may well have created a level of infrastructure it can no longer afford to maintain. We have built a beautiful big house, so to speak, but we are finding it difficult to find the money to paint it.

    When the money to fund all these activities is no longer there in the medium and longer term, what do you do? Carry on as normal and go bust in a few years. Cut now and drag things our for several years longer, or cut to a level now which is sustainable in the long term?

    The level of cuts to make things sustainable in the longer term, is much more severe in its impact than many are willing to face up to. It looks like there will be severe cuts sooner or later as most of the financial reserves have been spent (graph in Shetland times a few weeks back). When the money is gone there will be few options left.

    Unless some substantial new form of income is found soon, we are going to find it increasingly difficult to paint the house each summer.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 19th, 2012 11:33

    Robert, you ask what I have been proven right about. To will try to keep my answer brief by highlighting my previous statement about your comment, “It (Mareel) will become as landmark a building for the future of Shetland culture as the Museum and Archives is for the past. It is, after all, our culture that makes us unique.” Was I wrong in calling such nonsense “pretentious codswallop”? The Museum and Archives a monument to Shetlands past culture! Now to be turned into warehouse/storerooms. Mareel will become a signpost to Shetlands future? Late night drinking and rave dances with populist DJs imported at great cost. What a great example of Shetland culture. I will ignore your puerile insults regarding myself, but ask you, was the £12 million plus spent on Mareel not a profligate waste of monies as I previously stated? Is that statement not now proven, when, for lack of funds, we have to close our rural schools, lose music tutors and close the Museum and Archives? Is it not highly ironic that one of the very few Shetland true talents to, so far have performed at Mareel, Neil Georgeson, was educated at Aith Junior High, where he was encouraged to learnt and perfect his craft? That school soon to close for lack of funds. What a legacy to the judgement and short sighted wisdom of our past council Muppets and Shetland Arts. I feel little more need be said, but what a waste, an arts centre turning into a rave bar and drinking hole, in an attempt to become solvent, so much for the unique culture and art of Shetland…. What a true tragedy and legacy of miss management and stupidity. The Museum and Archives among so much to close and be lost for lack of funds!!!!!!!!!!

  • roy chamberlain

    • October 19th, 2012 14:31

    i am amazed that we are having this discussion- 50 cruise liners next year most of which will visit the museum – children like my grandchildren love the place, we come up every year, we go to museum at least 3 times, we spend money, we eat at the cafe we ENJOY it !! my grandchildren get educated by what they see – and hear its value for money -get people to pay a small fee for the gaderie or courses -get the leisure centres to charge an extra 50p to fund it but keep it going it took long enough to get it -as for the mareel that will be brilliant too -walk tall folk – say no to scottish idependence and yes to independance for shetland

  • Robert Lowes

    • October 19th, 2012 15:18

    Once again Ian, you’re putting two and two together and coming up with a very different number from most people. Yes, I once said that Mareel will be as important to Shetland’s culture as the Museum is to it’s past, and I stand by that. Everyone who isn’t of the foaming-at-the-mouth-brigade understands that the two buildings complement each other extremely well, and the fact you’re so keen to dismiss the notion as pretentious codswallop says a lot more about you than it does about me.

    Mareel cost £12m, most of that investment came from out-with Shetland. So far, it’s cinema takings are more than 3 times the predicted figure, there’s been concerts, workshops with local and visiting musicians, Oxjam, etc. Yes, there will be DJs, which was always part of the plan for the building. SADA also have a safe drinking policy in place. Every time I’ve visited the bar, it’s been friendly and civilised – not the picture you like to paint at all. Perhaps if you were to step down from your high horse, you might even care to visit the place and see for yourself? You’d have to take off your blinkers though.

    However, the fact Mareel is built and up and running has precisely nothing to do with the threat to our excellent Museum and Archives, nor our schools. As has been stated time and time again, the money that the SIC put into Mareel was from capital spending. That money could not – under statute of law – have been spent on schools, roads, care-homes, etc, etc. Indeed, the SIC had underspent on it’s capital spending for several years before Mareel came to the top of the list. Your continued argument against Mareel is null and void, Ian and completely meaningless and amounts to nothing more than hot air.

    Indeed, one of thing funders for Mareel was the National Lottery. They also paid for a substantial amount of the Museum & Archives. Now the SIC is seeking to renege on the commitment the made with the lottery to fund the Musuem & Archives to an appropriate level – a commitment it would seem, that the SIC had undertaken for a period of 25 years. If the SIC does indeed make a u-turn on it’s commitment, we can probably wave goodbye to any further investment in the islands from the lottery. This would be a tremendous shame to everyone in Shetland, and I sincerely hope the SIC carefully rethink’s it’s position.

  • David Spence

    • October 19th, 2012 16:54

    It seems very apparent Ian, that nothing can be done or financed in Shetland unless alcohol is involved………and we wonder why Shetland has a problem with booze…….life is not the same unless booze is there to solve our problems in life….so we are brainwashed into believing…..and seeing……if you base all the top soaps on tv……all focused around pubs……is anything to go by.

    Somebody said that if we cannot afford to run services or facilities we should close them………or let the private sector takeover (big mistake by all accounts……it was the ‘ private sector ‘ banks which got us into this mess in the first place) did they predict this event 5 years ago when the Museum was opened…….obviously not.

    Closing the Leisure Centre’s would be a start as they are of little value in proportion to their running costs, and it would save the Council a vast amount of money which could go on more valuable amenities to the community like schools, museum and music…….far more representative of Shetland than a selfish activity, in the extreme where nobody benefits except for the participant themselves, like sport.

  • Robbie Work

    • October 19th, 2012 20:26

    Last person out, please switch off the lights.

  • John Tulloch

    • October 20th, 2012 9:22

    There is a large gas terminal at Sullom Voe. Natural gas fuelled vehicles provide a large cost saving (50%), not only in basic cost and fuel duty but also Road Tax, and – dare I say it! – a reduction in those frightful “carbon footprints” of ours.

    Grants are available for provision of infrastructure.

    Why do we export oil and gas from SVT and then have to transport it back here, what about setting up a gas fuelling facility which could then buy gas direct from Total and supply fuel for any motor vehicle – at 50% of the price of diesel the cost of conversion would soon pay for itself and provide quite a tidy saving. The facility would also be profitable. Here’s an excerpt from the helpful website

    “•Road fuel duty – fuel duty on natural gas is £0.10p/kg and the government has agreed to maintain the duty differential with diesel fuel on a rolling 3 year basis. The February 2007 gas vehicle report showed this duty differential to diesel resulting in approximately a 50% reduction in fuel cost between diesel and CNG.

    •Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) – duty is linked to carbon dioxide emissions and fuel type. Light duty natural gas vehicles pay less VED than the equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle, see alternative fuel column in figure 5, and heavy duty natural gas vehicles can apply for a reduced pollution certificate to obtain a discounted VED. To find out more about VED see the Vehicle Certification Agency VED database here.

    •Infrastructure Grants – Grants from the Energy Saving Trust (EST) are available to support the capital cost of refuelling infrastructure.”

    Then consider that the gas price is likely to fall with the arrival of shale gas over the next couple of years or so and you are getting on to a “nice little earner.”

    And it needn’t be restricted to transport, buildings could be converted and the district heating auxiliary booster plant could also be converted – etc.

  • Chris Best in Birmingham

    • October 20th, 2012 13:00

    In my experience as the Admin for the popular Shetland List (which has over 300 members from all around the world) one of the main reasons many people travel to Shetland is to research their family history. The Museum and Archives form a central part of their visit. If these facilities were not available to visitors then I can see a drastic fall in the numbers of tourists bringing valuable income into the islands.

  • I. Anderson

    • October 21st, 2012 22:45

    I know it is not common ‘policy’ to charge for going into a museum but why not. Even if it’s just a single £1. This would produce an extra income of £83,000 every year! I’m sure most people wouldn’t complain about that and if they go next door to Mareel it’ll cost a good bit more and most folk will accept this.
    Iris Anderson

  • Andy Hughson

    • October 22nd, 2012 9:29

    Mr Tinkler – you do realise that this drivel you are spouting off is complete and utter fantasy which exists only in your own head?

    The reality is that Mareel has surpassed even the expectations of its strongest supporters and is a bustling hive of activity for all ages from toddlers to pensioners, pumping much needed money into the local economy at the most crucial of times.

    Even those with the most basic understanding know how funding and budgets work. If there IS to be any comparison, lets see those who want to save the museum put in the same fundraising work Mareels supporters did.

    It’s time for a reality check my good sir. If you can remember what reality is.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 22nd, 2012 11:32

    Shetland is losing or has lost our Museum and Archives, our Music Teachers, and our Rural Schools for lack of funds. Mareel has cost us, Shetlanders, UK tax payers and lottery funds £12 million at the very least. Due to the utter incompetence of whoever oversaw Mareel’s development further substantial unknown costs have accrued. Millions, hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands of pounds of overspend has to be added to that £12 million already spent? The Mareel stakeholders and Shetlands Arts people claim they do not know how much the overspend is. Are they truly that incompetent or just hiding these figures to save public embarrassment and outcry?. I am glad Mareel is busy but of course it is busy, a £12 million plus brand new cinema, nightclub and drinking centre in any town would be, but the reality is it far too elaborate for purpose. At £12 million plus it has cost far, far too much. Just how many film tickets sold, Raves held and drinking session are worth the closure of a single school? I am accused of being out of touch with reality and spouting drivel, what a shame the idiots who committed funds of this magnitude to this project did not share my views a few years ago, we could have then better protected our heritage and children’s education. That would have been a far greater asset than Mareel ever will or could be.
    Post script… Mr Lowes claims by Statute of Law would prevent the £12 million having been spent more wisely, that is utter piffle £6 million was Shetland funds (to be spent as Shetlanders wished), the remainder grant monies from outwith Shetland. Any of these funds could have been spent on more sensible and useful projects, nothing was written in stone dedicating these funds to Mareel.Just where funds to cover the unknown overspend will come from is unknown. Charitable Trust?

  • James MacGregor

    • October 22nd, 2012 14:54

    Ian Tinkler you are once again seriously misleading people with your instant analyses and distortion of facts whilst pretending to be knowledgeable about all manner of issues in which you are woefully ignorant.”The idiots who committed funds of this magnitude to this project (Mareel)” include the democratically elected representatives of the people who had been considering detailed reports about it for several years and were in fact divided on whether to go ahead or not, finally going ahead on the casting vote of their convenor. It is in fact proving extremely popular, well patronised and is being well run. Drop by sometime and see just how wrong you are.

    Other “idiots who committed funds of this magnitude to this project” include Scotland’s national agency for the arts, Creative Scotland and those other “idiots” Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who immediately grasped the economic and social potential these facilites would have for this community and indeed for Scotland and the UK as whole. They also saw it as a sound investment in the sense that it was planned as being self-sustaining, not depending on public funding for its long-term future.

    None of the £6m SIC invested in Mareel was “Shetland funds (to be spent as Shetlanders wished” as you so misleadingly contrive to put it. This was money placed in SIC’s capital fund, earmarked for Mareel’s place in the capital building programme, in which which it had gradually worked its way up the priority list over several years It was not available to pay for revenue spending like music lessons or teachers salaries or any other running costs you care to name. It is not lawful to spend public capital funding on revenue spending.

    Nor are these “idiots” “truly that incompetent or just hiding these figures to save public embarrassment and outcry.” It is frequently the case that final cost outcomes of large capital projects are not known until all the bills are in, independently checked by quantity surveyors acting on behalf of builder and client. This can be a lengthy process, involving verifications that have to be sound in order to be accepted at all. Even then there will be considerable haggling over the final result as the contractor seeks to talk up the value of work carried out and the client tries to talk down the size of the bill for each item disputed. Only when all of these factors are reconciled and agreed, can the final cost of a project be determined. Legal disputes may well prolong the whole exercise. Charges by you of “hiding figures” are extremely premature when the doors of Mareel have only just opened.

    Charges of idiocy against Mareel funders are also misplaced. Perhaps they lie closer to home, for continuous outpouring of distortions, misinterpretations falsehoods and malicious opinions peddled freely, without constraint and all too often, by yourself, Mr Tinkler,

  • cariad Trill

    • October 22nd, 2012 15:06

    I am dumbfounded that any idiot should even think of closing the new museum, Hays Dock cafe or Mareel. We holiday in Shetland every year, the Aberdeen Ferries are always packed. Add to this the popular Bergen Yacht race, the visiting liners, the Up Helly A. Not to mention encouraging future generations to promote the heritage and culture that is purely Shetland/Celtic and your important ties with Norway. Why does it take so many people to run these places? This seems to be the failing in so many Councils.

    Pam Trill,
    Buckinghamshire resident

  • John Fraser

    • October 22nd, 2012 15:42

    I must disagree with David Spence’s comment on The Shetland Times website. He says that sport is a selfish activity that benefits nobody but the participants involved. I am proud to say that both my children are keen young athletes who represent the county in their respective activities. Sport engages them in a healthy and appropriate activity for a young person, steering them away from less fruitful and potentially more antisocial pursuits. Through sport they have built up a vast network of friends which I trust will last throughout their lives. It is these relationships that contribute to a sense of belonging and a sense of community, attitudes that enrich the lives of all those in the community. Sport has helped develop their team work skills, respect for others, respect for authority, discipline and a positive work ethic. These are traits that I am sure will benefit not only themselves but also those they encounter throughout their lives. Sport has established in them healthy life habits which God willing means they will be less likely to require medical intervention in later life, freeing up resources for others. There is also significant evidence that physical activity contributes to mental well being and academic attainment. Therefore sport should assist in their endeavors to be useful members of the community.
    Therefore you stick in there bairns. Dad is very proud of your efforts and will support you all the way. You are certainly not selfish and just pay no attention to those that tell you otherwise. Rant over.

  • Robert Lowes

    • October 22nd, 2012 15:55

    Mareel was partially funded from the SIC’s capital spending budget, but with the majority of the money coming from out-with Shetland. I did not claim – as you say Mr Tinkler – that the £12m that paid for Mareel was ‘prevented from being spent more wisely’. You are putting words in my mouth, to which I take exception. The council’s stake – the capital spending budget – CANNOT be used to pay for schools, roads, teachers, care homes, museum wages, etc, etc. That is an absolute and incontrovertible fact, and has been confirmed to you by the SIC’s political leader in previous comments to The Shetland Times. Capital spending and revenue spending cannot be mixed and matched and that has been the case for decades.

    Indeed, the capital spending programme was underspent for at least three years before the SIC gave the go-ahead to Mareel. That spending of that money is controlled by the council, who decided to spend it on Mareel in a democratic vote. Any underspend is not then available as extra money for the council to spend on other things. The capital spending budget remains at a set level.

    The majority of the £12m you’re so indignant about came from outwith Shetland – from various funding bodies who exist to grant money to projects. That’s what they’re for. Their budgets come out our taxes. Had Mareel not been built, the money would have been invested in some other arts project or facility anyway, just one not located in Shetland and not to the benefit to the people of Shetland.

    Your insistence that the money used to build Mareel could have been spent elsewhere, “on our heritage and children’s education” is an outright fallacy at best. Keep banging your drum if you so wish – you did at one point claim you’d no longer be droning on about Mareel. Chance’d be a fine thing – but no-one is listening. Your position is based on your own distorted and twisted logic – not anything resembling reality or the truth of the matter.

  • Matthew Lawrence

    • October 22nd, 2012 18:01

    Mareel is NOT just another late night drinking spot and ‘raves’ (god the last time I heard that word used in that sense was a misguided Tory minister raving on in Question Time) are not the only attraction at this only just opened brand new venue. Populist DJs are not paid for by stakeholders or funders. They are brought up by promoters who take the entire risk. I have never read such a lot of misguided waffle from Mr Tinkler. Mareel was a capital project and had no effect on school budgets. It is a welcome structure in our community and will soon prove its own. The cinemas have already proved their worth and the music venue can certainly hold its own. I am, like many folk, dismayed at the threat of cuts to the museum. This is a jewel in Shetland’s crown and is incredibly successful. Cutting costs in this area will only hurt us. Tourism, education….? I am quite sure there are plenty of other places cuts could be made without affecting the education and entertainment benefits for our community and future generations

  • John Tulloch

    • October 22nd, 2012 20:30

    Quite so, John Fraser!

  • John Anderson

    • October 22nd, 2012 21:59

    Nobody has proposed the museum close except the trustees and manager who are doing a headless-chicken act, and giving the impression they hadn’t contemplated the cuts could touch them. If I was a member of staff I’d be concerned about my job, not (only) because of the cuts but because of the lack of forward planning from the management.

  • David Spence

    • October 23rd, 2012 0:25

    I take your point John (Fraser) in the positive aspects of sport, but lets put this into context with the value it has in relation to a social structure and this of imprinting its affect on society for the future. Yes, sport or any physical activity (which in most cases can be done without the use of a leisure centre) can be done within a school curriculum (although I hasten to say this Tory Government is hell bent on selling off local authority land used by schools for sport activities to more profitable associates, lets say) and in many cases schools have the facilities for such activities (of an indoor nature). What I am saying, put bluntly John, if I had the choice of funding a Museum, School or a Leisure Centre, I would most definitely pick either the Museum or a School, as their value and contribution to society is far greater than any Leisure Centre in terms of value for money and long term contribution. There may be some positive aspects to sport, but there is also the darker side of segregation, victimization and humiliation as well. It also encourages a competitive element to human nature which can highlight and bring to the fore the darker side of human nature, this of cheating, deceiving, lying, drug taking etc etc (the Lance Armstrong fiasco as example as well as many more) all in the name of being pushed to your limit to win a medal or cup or recognition for doing an activity with a very limited shelf life……..unlike education (schools, museums) which lasts a life time. There is also another aspect of sport which is being brought to the forefront, this is wealth and that of the purile status of celebrity. Many sports (especially the semiskilled sport of football) are becoming a business rather than a sport (the 2012 Olympics costing just under £11 billion) and in many cases, it is not the sport which drive young people, it is the wealth and fame……a very much false sense of actively encouraging an activity….as a consequence of the over rated, over televised and over hyped sport activities which are of less value to the majority of people. Yes John, sport may have its place in society, but in Shetlands case, it should never precede education and this of our history and the means in which to record it, this of our valuable Archives and Museum.

  • Sandy McDonald

    • October 23rd, 2012 5:14

    I agree with John Fraser, I find it hard to fathom that in this modern era where child obesity is rising that folk want close leisure centres and are berating sports as “selfish pursuits”!

    Healthy body, healthy mind.

    Being involved in a sport teaches discipline. It shows that hard work pays off and demonstrates tangible results. Not a bad lesson for any young person (or a person of any age come to that).

    Being part of a sports club or team teaches you humility, bestows a good work ethic, and does the exact opposite of making you “selfish”! You work for your other team members, help them when they’re struggling, you all work towards a common goal, even in seemingly individual sports such as track and field and swimming.

    Even if you just work out for your own satisfaction you are realising endorphins into your body which makes you happier and feel better in yourself. Although the wider effects of this may be intangible they definetly make for a happier community.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 23rd, 2012 13:58

    James MacGregor, I will respond to your letter and answer your many points in the order you raised them. I apologies for the length of this letter. You mention our council, the democratically elected representatives of the people of Shetland, our last bunch of council Muppets whom elevated the squandering of Shetlanders public funds to an art form, Mareel is just one of many examples of their spendthrift ways. You seem to hold Creative Scotland as a worthwhile organisation, I and many do not, and indeed many leading Scottish artists regard Creative Scotland as wholly incompetent and a disgrace!
    The Shetland monies earmarked for Mareel were never legally “ring fenced” and most certainly could have been used in more worthwhile ways. Public funds not ring fenced are frequently used for unexpected contingencies and emergencies when necessary.
    Highlands and Islands Enterprise although seeing the potential for a Mareel type project certainly never anticipated the overspend and incompetence of Shetland Arts in overseeing this project. Any business plan, after this overspend and delay is completely obsolete. Who is going to fund the overspend? James, you criticise me for using the words idiot and incompetent when describing Shetland Arts. I refer to several statements over the last three years from Shetland Arts. I feel incompetence and stupidity is perhaps a mild and kind description, propagandist disingenuous and perhaps economic with the truth fit rather better…
    “Mareel construction progressing well”
    Posted by Gwilym Gibbonson March 9th, 2010….
    But Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons insisted this week that the organisation would not have to seek extra funding however, planned concerts by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in the first two days of March are still on course, according to Mr Gibbons. Construction element is still within budget.
    Mareel opening delayed until summer after weather disrupts building work January 21st, 2011
    Mr Gibbons said the delay would have no financial repercussions for the £12.2 million project, The important thing is we’re still on budget and maintaining a two per cent contingency against remaining spend,
    Mr Gibbons said: “Shetland Arts is delighted to be making this announcement (24th-may)
    I could go on and on, these are just a few of many false statements. Clearly Mr Gibbons is very prone to mistakes, many, many mistakes!!
    I refer to the overspend, by June 2011 it was clear to this entire project was seriously flawed. Any competent QS or accountant would have been aware overspend was inevitable. It beggars belief that Shetland Arts and the stakeholders did not take control and at least find out the order of this overspend. They have certainly had plenty of time!!!
    However it goes without saying any private company with a record like this would be long bankrupt and all those involved long redundant and well sued. This project to date has been an utter shambles and truly a disgrace. I am not referring to the artist and those employed in Mareel. Just the organisation that commissioned and forwarded this project.

  • Johan Adamson

    • October 23rd, 2012 14:42

    We have to cut somewhere, the coffers are empty, if not the museum and leisure centres then where? If we stayed south we would have to pay a lot more for these things and we have relatively full employment here – and there could be concessions – I think charging for the museum is a good idea like others above. Scalloway Museum you pay and get a ticket to keep. I think you can make cuts without shutting it altogether. And I still think it is not 20 full time jobs they are speaking about but some part time jobs, has to be, surely.

  • John Fraser

    • October 23rd, 2012 16:03

    I respond to David Spence’s latest contribution. Indeed you are correct in that the ability to participate in some sporting pursuits may be for a finite duration. The lessons of hard work, sacrifice, dedication, discipline, teamwork and respect however last a life time as do the invaluable friendships formed on the field of play.
    I agree that competitive spirit can manifest itself in a manner that is less than attractive. Those disposed to such a personality I regret will find their platform whether on the sports field, career ladder, business environment, politics, performing arts arena or within academia. The majority will however embrace their competitive spirit and allow themselves to flourish and achieve self actualisation hopefully to the benefit of all.
    In all walks of life we find those to admire and those to deplore. For each Lance Armstrong we will find many more Mo Farah’s, Chris Hoy’s, Victoria Pendleton’s, Bradley Wiggins, Kelly Holmes’s, Steve Redgrave’s…………..and on the list goes.
    Prosperity and status need not be the motivators for our young sports people. Close to home they can take inspiration from their peers achieving national recognition for their efforts and from the selfless volunteer coaches who give their time for no other reason than their love of sport and their community.
    Shetland has a rich and varied culture and history that I am extremely proud of. All aspects of our culture and history are of extreme importance and the value of education can never be underestimated. However over the previous century sport has developed into an integral part of that and should be embraced as such.
    In closing. If you think David that footballers are semiskilled I urge you to tune in and watch Lionel Messi tonight. 😉

  • David Spence

    • October 23rd, 2012 16:52

    Lets put this into perspective and do away with the political correctness to get straight to the basic values of what is being proposed in relation to the consequences towards society.

    Sport, in proportion to its overall affect on society (physically and psychologically) is very much an individual pursuit towards individual reward, whether it is 1 person or a team, no other people in society directly benefit or their lives enhanced as a result of such an activity. Yes, it may make the individual or team feel good about achieving a competitive goal against a rival or another team, but it does very little else in its greater goal of benefiting society as a whole…..lets not beat about the bush here.

    On the other hand, schools and places where education and the beauty of information and knowledge can very much benefit society as a whole.

    If you care to look at the vast improvements towards technology, medicine, science, social development and most important of all, education for the masses over the past 2 – 3 hundred years, all of this has brought massive changes to our society as a result of technological development (in most cases has been good, but has also advanced a better means in which to annihilate each other) and what our society is now today.

    I am not deliberately going out of my way to berate sport, I am just putting it into perspective with its total contribution to our society against this of education and history, which, I would hope, most people would regard is far greater an importance than sport itself………albeit, due to technology, sport nowadays being looked upon a means of making the quick buck rather than for the greater good towards society…..which, as far as I can see, does it no good whatsover.

  • David Seymour

    • October 24th, 2012 11:00

    In Mr Tinkler’s attacks on Shetland Arts staff and ‘stakeholders’, he conveniently neglects to mention that the delays in Mareel’s construction were exactly that – construction delays, which from my understanding of the contract, were not in the main the fault of the client. Shetland Arts’ announcements on the build programme, opening dates etc were made based on information provided by the contractors to the client.

    Some delays were unfortunate (such as sub contractors going into liquidisation) but still the responsibility of the main contractor, and premature announcements of opening dates seem to be the result of overly optimistic programme completion dates.

    I have read the articles to which Mr Tinkler provided links and I see no ‘false statements’ – the statements contained within were based on the information known/provided at the time.

    However, the scale of the delays in the Mareel project are not unusual for contracts of this nature and the contractors have delivered a very high quality building within a reasonable timescale, but to lay the responsibility for delays solely with the clients suggests that Mr Tinkler does not understand the contractual processes of the construction industry.

    Also, it is unlikely that the final cost of the build will be known for many months after the opening date. Again, that’s the nature of the construction industry and not the fault of clients.

    Let us judge Shetland Arts on their ability to run Mareel and put the ill feeling behind us.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 24th, 2012 11:44

    REF letters, Spence Fraser. Just a further view on the sport/ leisure center issue. There is a far more important aspect to physical fitness than training world class athletes and competitive sportsmen/women. That is simply the health aspect. Anyone can get fit or fitter by using Recreation Trust facilities. They are not mandated into competitive sport. Every aspect of their health will improve. Not only will they feel better, sleep better they will look better. Their immune response will improve, ageing and interlect intellectual degradation will be slowed. They can work better, play better, sex drive will increase and so will sexual performance. They will be less likely to get cancer, diabetes, depressive illness, arthritis and cardiovascular disease will be combated. They will need less time off work for health issues and cost our NHS far less. They will live longer and be fit and active enough to enjoy old age. Difficult to cost these major life improvements. I for one would be quite happy to pay more for the use of leisure centers if they had to be run on a more commercial footing. Plenty of fitness centers down south function well without public funding but they are far more commercially run. The downside, less staff, lights not left when a facility not in use. For tighter commercial management. They also do not close their doors to clients and shut for days on end for public holidays, (Christmas) just when most working folk could use the facilities.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 24th, 2012 12:11

    David I agree with your comment “Let us judge Shetland Arts on their ability to run Mareel and put the ill feeling behind us.”, but I cannot accept that that there were no ‘false statements’. It was clearly obvious beyond construction overspend there would be further costs from employing staff months and months before the project opened. Electricity bills, commercial rates ECT would all accrue. Add to this the lack of any income from staging functions, showing films and bar profits. To endlessly claim this project was within contingency plans and not being overspent is either utterly incompetent at best or perhaps not entirely honest, just my opinion.

  • David Spence

    • October 24th, 2012 16:08

    The main issue for my outburst towards sport and its contribution to society is the unjust action of the Council proposing to close our fabulous, and great value to Shetland, Archives and Museum, but still finance (costing the Council around £11 million a year) all the Leisure Centres which are within the islands.

    Admittedly, I cannot fully assess the financial costs in the upkeep of such facilities, but from the research I have done, the figure of around £11 million seems to be an overall estimate of the cost of running all the Leisure Centres……which ironically is the same it cost to build the Archives and Museum.

    My issue is the justification in proposing to close such a valuable asset to our community and Shetlands identity, but keep open and running a facility which, lets be straight to the point here, only benefits a very small part of the population, this of the Leisure Centres.

    I cannot and will not accept this premiss where sport/leisure is superceding a far greater and valued part of what makes Shetland unique and much admired throughout the world, this of our means in which to sustain and keep alive our history and identity, the Archives and the Museum.

    Somebody has written saying the long term advantages of having sport/leisure facilities would be more beneficial in terms of medical care/treatment having to be administered later in life being reduced and having less strain on our nhs. However though, this is contradicted by the increasing statistics of obesity and the population overall becoming more obese, despite there being many, many more places in which to keep fit and the awareness campaigns being used to advertise and promote a healthy life. (the disturbing irony of this is many fast food outlets, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC etc are also doing keep fit programmes and products….for marketing reasons purely, getting both ends of the spectrum). The statistics seem to contradict this if you look at from this perspective.

    All in all, I would rather close a few Leisure Centres rather than closing a more valued and necessary contribution to Shetland, this of our Archives and Museum.

  • David Seymour

    • October 25th, 2012 2:39

    Some of the statements to which Mr Tinkler refers do indeed contain forecasts that did not turn out as predicted. However, he is accusing Shetland Arts of being wilfully misleading which is an altogether different matter. I do not see any evidence of that.

    “Electricity bills, rates ECT [sic]” would not have become the responsibility of Shetland Arts until they took ownership of the building, and from what I understand, they were open within weeks of that point.

    Regarding employing staff “months and months before the project opened” – staff do not need to be physically in the building to prepare for the opening. With a project of this nature there is a huge amount of preparatory work to be undertaken, and that fact that building was operational within weeks of being handed over indicates that these staff had been gainfully employed in the months prior.

    Also, it would seem Mr Tinkler does not have a full grasp of contingencies in construction contracts. A quick Google search indicates the last statement from the clients regarding a contingency still being in place was Sep 2011. In my opinion, it is likely that the contingency may have been drawn down in the stages after this date due to further unforeseen delays and/or revisions, and I’m not aware of any subsequent statements made by contractor or client to the contrary. In summary, it is likely that the contingency was still in place when the statement was made and I see no reason to think otherwise.

    Therefore I believe Mr Tinkler’s claims of the client being “utterly incompetent” and “not entirely honest” in this regard to be hugely disproportionate and not based on any evidence.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 25th, 2012 13:39

    David, it is a matter of fact that this Mareel project opened late, over budget and on many, many occasions Shetland arts made statements manifestly, proven by events, not to be true. One statement in error is a shame; two a coincidence, three could be regarded as beyond incompetence, however many, many, more I would regard as deliberate, propagandist and false. Maybe by willful default or extream overconfidence played a part in this monumental shambles, however the fact remains Shetland Arts and the Mareel stakeholders by any standard made a complete mess of overseeing the construction phase, advertising and the launching of Mareel. Many events were advertised and artists contracted only to be repeatedly let down but Shetland Arts. It is absolutely not the normal for projects and construction of this type to be so badly managed, run so late and be over budget by completely unknown amounts… that is negligent and simply not acceptable when dealing with public funds. A few Quotes from Shetland Arts. They were made as statements of fact when Shetland Arts were clearly ignorant of the facts. “Mr. Gibbons said the delay would have no financial repercussions for the £12.2 million project” January 21st, 2011,
    “Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons insisted this week that the organization would not have to seek extra funding.” September 15th, 2011
    “G G I will say is that we are striving to deliver this building on budget and there is nothing that has changed in recent months that is suggesting we are going to do otherwise.” September 15th, 2011. I ask how can Mr. Gibbons have made these statements in good faith when today he claims to be ignorant of the overspend, he clearly was must have been in total ignorance of the overspend when issuing these statements.? They are false statements and simply not honest, in my opinion.

  • ian tinkler

    • October 25th, 2012 19:00

    Further to all my previous ” THE SCOTTISH government has agreed to increase grant funding for Shetland’s flagship cinema and music venue Mareel by almost £300,000 to help cover extra costs caused by an 18 month delay in the construction.” The cash drain is now trully open, pity about the schools!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Archives and Museum and music lessons.


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.