Councillors approve £600,000 Mareel package

Councillors today agreed by a narrow margin to provide financial assistance of up to £600,000 to Shetland Arts to help settle the bills for cinema and music venue Mareel.

The issue was debated in private for around two-and-a-half hours before members voted 11-9 in favour of releasing the funds via a .

Shortly after the meeting concluded, a short statement was issued outlining that the council would take action to reassure the community about Mareel’s viability.

Venue owners Shetland Arts asked the council for the extra cash to plug a 10 per cent gap in funding after the £12 million venue’s construction was delayed for 18 months.

The project’s other funders – including HIE, Creative Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund – have all pledged extra cash totalling around £600,000.

A Shetland Arts spokeswoman said its board was meeting in private on Wednesday night to discuss the decision. It will issue a full statement on Thursday morning.

Nobody from the council was available for interview after the meeting concluded. The statement read in full: “Shetland Islands Council has today approved bridging finance to Shetland Arts Development Agency (SADA) in respect of Mareel, on a narrow vote of 11-9.

“A facility of up to £600,000 will be provided to enable the completion of the project. There are a number of stringent conditions attached to this offer to give the community greater reassurance on Mareel’s viability.

“The council will commission a full due diligence study and post-project review. It is hoped  that this offer will secure the future of Mareel, and protect the local community’s investment of £6.1 million and £5.9 million of other public funds in this important facility.”

More to follow.


Add Your Comment
  • Kevin t Robertson

    • December 5th, 2012 18:43

    Does this now mean that the two Halls that got turned down a few weeks ago will now also be getting informed they have been approved for there money. Which there communities has worked hard to raise there own part of the money? Or is this the old thing of it’s in the town so we’ll just pay for it? I guess it’s the second.

    And also where will the council make cuts to cover the £600,000 they have used on this? More schools closed, Less ferry trips, No meals on wheel’s, Less help for the elderly or just stop gritting altogether.

  • Beth Gerrard

    • December 5th, 2012 19:35


  • Douglas Young

    • December 5th, 2012 20:03

    I fear the word “loan” is not strictly accurate

  • Sandy McMillan

    • December 5th, 2012 20:08

    What a sham giving Mareel what they want, what about those who really need, the Shetland public are being treated like these poor people in the middle east, by Dictators not Councillors, the councillors are having a lot of bother getting there savings they require then they give away £600.000, once more Shetland becomes a laughing stock around the world, is it not time they looked back on what they have given away over the past 30 years or so, it runs into tens of £millions and they are still giving, not a thought for the Schools, public halls without help this will destroy the COMMUNITIES around Shetland, unless the public take a stance against these Councillors they will just carry on, I would like to know how or where they are going to make cuts to recover this £600.000.

  • Michael Inkster

    • December 5th, 2012 20:24

    More accurate might be advance of money with conditions attached but ultimately no security to ensure that those conditions are adhered to, though I can’t see what option the Council had on this particular occasion. What chance now of the new AH school, having just been given a green light it seems, being built on time and within budget? History tells us that this is unlikely. M Inkster

  • Michael Garriock

    • December 5th, 2012 21:11

    No surprise there then, not that there was ever any real doubt rubber stamping was the way this was to go.

    A political decision, merit never had a look in, and those who forecasted that no sooner would it be built than the begging bowl would come out, are proven right. I wonder how many more of those who stated the (to them) blatently obvious shortcomings and flaws in site, design etc will also regrettably have the opportunity to say “told you so” in the forseeable future.

    Its sad, somewhere back at the beginning of all this there were a few good ideas thrown in to the pot, however what we ended up with was damn little for each of our £12.1 Million bucks, and that has now been elevated in to a damn sight less for each of our £13.3 Million bucks.

  • Maurice Smith

    • December 5th, 2012 21:22

    How many more public services will go west until Shetland Arts makes repayment in full – they will repay in full, won’t they?

    But then, it’s in da Toon, therefore it’s important, isn’t it?

    Maurice J Smith

  • John Tulloch

    • December 5th, 2012 21:45

    OK Shetland Arts/Mareel, you’re being given some breathing space so let’s see you prove the naysayers wrong – I’ve printed the above comments for future reference.

    Shetland needs you to do well and the opportunity is huge – go for it!

  • Kevin t Robertson

    • December 5th, 2012 22:05

    How can Mareel pay back the LOAN if it is none profit making and it projections are tight.

    Did anybody take time to explain that to the counsellors today before they voted to give out public money with very little or more likely no chance of ever getting a penny back?

  • Marina Thomason

    • December 5th, 2012 22:08

    Details of this “loan” still have to be revealed if indeed it is a true loan but according to the Mid Term Financial Plan any loans have to meet two criteria –

    – The loan will generate the Council a return at least equal to the markets; and

    – Due diligence has been undertaken to ensure that any loan granted is at an acceptable risk level to the council.

  • chris maginn

    • December 5th, 2012 22:12

    Well Done to SIC for saving the the world class Mareel, the future of 35 jobs and the long term future of an amazing arts venue that is already proving its worth. The value of the inward investment alone makes this a wise decision.
    When all the teething problems have gone away it will bring so much to Shetland life as it has already started to do. I’m guessing that the “facility of up to £600,000 will be mainly in the form of a loan. What else could it be in these straitened times? Still, it is a decision worthy of applause.

  • Jim Kerslake

    • December 5th, 2012 22:28

    As I slide helplessly off our lamentably untreated “side” road, I shall be consoled to think that the associated cost savings are helping to subsidise wall-to-wall screenings of ‘The Hobbit’ in 3D.
    Can’t put a price on such culture, can you…?

  • Doug Forrest

    • December 5th, 2012 22:30

    Back in November I attended a meeting at Aith Public Hall. Its purpose was to oppose the closure of Aith Junior High School secondary department. At that meeting I raised my concerns that whilst the council had no money to keep the department open it would still find money for Mareel. Councillor Vaila Wishart indicated that under no circumstances would such a situation arrise.
    I can also recall the Political Leader commenting at another time that Mareel would not receive another ‘black hapny’ from the SIC.
    It would appear that a month is quite a long time in local politics!

  • Stuart Hannay

    • December 5th, 2012 22:42

    As the Happy Mondays might have said, “You’re twisting my melon man”

  • Derick Tulloch

    • December 5th, 2012 23:35

    Getting to the stage that I am ashamed to say I come fae Shetland. Entertainment for the select few, penury for the rest.

  • Kelly Anderson

    • December 6th, 2012 1:14

    It really is time councillors took a hard look at their priorities, it’s ridiculous! Money is being cut back from essential services and given to things like this, when the cut backs have now started being a wellfare risk with the grit and elderly, not to mention education and the rest! It has actually just become a disgrace.

  • Linda Tait

    • December 6th, 2012 1:23

    So which coucillors rubber stamped the done deal to close our community Junior High schools then? A loan? What a joke. I fear we have been here before. My understanding of the Councillors seminars was to establish priorities in spending for this council. This clearly demonstrates that first come first served. Will the head teachers get the same “private hearing ” with their begging bowls if they form an orderly queue now. Don’t get me wrong I am all in favour of the arts but my bairns education delivered within their local community will always come first!

  • I. Anderson

    • December 6th, 2012 8:08

    I seriously do not believe that this money will ever be returned to the SIC by Shetland Arts because if they haven’t made enough money in this busy initial stage of the venue to pay their debts, then they never will because it is now that they will have been making money with all the crowds flocking into this new place and not in a year or two when the novelty wears off, which it will, mark my words! I have never been in a full cinema yet!! This is a complete travesty but at least now we can see the SIC seems to have plenty of money (HA HA) so we should have no worries about getting what we need for important things like schools, ferries etc. I should think this group of people SIC must hardly be able to look the Shetland public in the eye after this decision.

  • Maurice J Smith

    • December 6th, 2012 9:09

    According to my calculator, £600,000 divided by 35 = £17,142 per job secured. Good job creation that!

    Then there will be the next shake of the begging bowl — what will be the next name for a “facility” from our cash-rich Lerwick Town Council?

  • Andrea Watt

    • December 6th, 2012 9:52

    If it is a loan why did they not got to a bank?

  • ian tinkler

    • December 6th, 2012 10:18

    Public accountability? The donkeys meet in private. Commercial sensitivity, Mareel with its absolute monopoly and totally financed out of public funds and has no commercial sensitivity. These Councillors are no more than an offence to democrassy. Has anyone of them the moral courage to make these closet discussions public? Do you all lack the courage to be honest and open, should you all be tarred with the same brush? Men and women of straw!

  • Billy Wiseman

    • December 6th, 2012 11:41

    Where is Ian Tinkler?

  • Linda Tait

    • December 6th, 2012 12:26

    Looks like nothing has been learned from the SIC’s financial mistakes of the past.

  • Eddie Barclay (Snr)

    • December 6th, 2012 12:39

    It would be interesting for the Shetland Public to know which way each Councillor voted .

  • ian tinkler

    • December 6th, 2012 13:24

    Where is Ian Tinkler? (- Billy Wiseman), sadly proven right about Mareel’s finances and far from alone in my opinions. . Time for a change of management at Mareel, Shetland Arts have proven themselves well incompetent thus far. On a par with our SIC team perhaps.

  • ian tinkler

    • December 6th, 2012 14:19

    Court battle looms over Mareel! Just how much more money are Shetland Arts going to cost us!!? Last September (15.2011) Shetland Arts director Gwilym Gibbons, at that time, rather incredulously stated that the Organisation would not have to be seeking extra funding.” Can you trust Shetland Arts commercial judgment, I have serious doubts about their integrity, but that is a personal view. This forthcoming legal battle will waste thousands maybe hundreds of thousands and just achieve nothing. Time to bite the bullet, get Shetland Arts away from Mareel, put in half decent management, cut the hype and make what is salvageable of his colossal waste of public money pay its way (bar, night club, and cinema). When that is a success let the arties do their thing, hopefully with better judgment than the present shower. (

  • Ewen Adamson

    • December 6th, 2012 16:28

    Ian Tinkler is a man with very strong opinions. There is nothing wrong with that, he is entitled to his opinion. He stood for election back in May 2012, with a promotional website on which he clearly listed his beliefs and what he would do if elected. Ian Tinkler did not get elected. The constituents knew where he stood on Mareel, and a host of other important issues, but he received only 78 first preference votes. Clearly not enough of the Shetland public wanted him as a local councillor. Not enough people agreed with what he had to say, or trusted him to represent their views. The people of Shetland spoke, and they did not want him in the Town Hall. Following this defeat perhaps he should consider holding his tongue. Having said this at least he stood for election, which is more than can be said for many of the people on here and various other local forums who endlessly air their opinions in public, and give the impression that they could do a much better job than the current crop of councillors, without actually following anything up with action. At least Ian Tinkler tried and failed, the vast majority just aimlessly spout hot air, criticise and moan, which in effect helps nobody.

  • Gary Cooper

    • December 6th, 2012 18:47

    I tink de’s right…

  • Sandy McMillan

    • December 6th, 2012 19:31

    Does Ian Tinkler not mean ASSES when he refers to the 22 Numpties in the Town Hall

  • ian tinkler

    • December 6th, 2012 22:19

    I note Ewen Adamson’s comment and accept the points he raises. I cannot help but ponder the point, how the last council election would have gone if the public knew where the donkeys they eventually voted for would take them. I hold little but contempt for those feeble soles whom are unable to stay true to their convictions and capitulate so hopelessly when under pressure. Moral cowards and no more, shame on you.

  • Robert Sim

    • December 7th, 2012 7:17

    In reply to Ewen Adamson, I would just say that discussion and debate helps everyone by making us all think. And I guess you don’t have to read it…

  • Stuart Hannay

    • December 7th, 2012 10:03

    “Following this defeat perhaps he should consider holding his tongue”

    This is an interesting viiew. Do we wamt to live in a democracy where only elected officials can have opinions?

  • Robert Sim

    • December 7th, 2012 18:26

    Further to my last post, which was supportive of Ian Tinkler’s and others’ right to free speech, I now find myself in the position of pointing out to Mr Tinkler that personal abuse and insinuations of various kinds about individuals isn’t a good use of that right. I am prompted to say that by Mr Tinkler’s reference to councillors as “donkeys”. Where on earth does that comment take us?

  • ian tinkler

    • December 8th, 2012 16:23

    Prhaps I insult donkeys?

  • Robbie Work

    • December 9th, 2012 20:31

    As somebody who was completely opposed to Mareel at the start, then slightly supportive of it when it was given the go ahead.
    I honestly thought the place would survive for about a year before going cap in hand to the SIC…… This has to be the most monumental screw up the SIC has ever been involved in,, or maybe not…
    And as for Shetland Arts, who have done such a brilliant job of wasting so much money from the Shetland purse…… To use a term from Mrs Brown’s Boys… “That’s Nice”


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