A new professor for creative industries will be appointed to Shetland College – part of the Univerity of the Highlands and Islands network.
The move recognises the isles’ major contribution to the sector.
It is believed the decision to appoint a professor who will represent burgeoning industries, such as knitwear or music, could unlock the potential for new businesses while doing more to support existing enterprises.
Chairman of the Shetland College UHI board, Drew Ratter, warmly greeted the news.
The fact the isles play host to so many creative works, he says, makes Shetland the ideal place to host the chair of creative industries. The estimated benefit to the Shetland economy of creative industries is calculated at around £2.4 million pounds per year.
“When the UHI was set up it was very much a university composed of its network of colleges. One of its principles that was established was that the senior positions, the chairs, shouldn’t concentrate themselves in Inverness.
“There was a consultancy report done on it that looked like this was an excellent place to set the chair of creative industries.
“There is a world-wide Fair Isle boom at the moment. Shetland music has spread far and wide as well. It seems to me it is the right place to do this.”
Shetland Islands Council will provide grant funding of £250,000 over a five year period, with a first year grant from the SIC amounting to £22,955, which will help with the start-up costs.
The money will come through the council’s development budgets, and applications have been made for further funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Creative Scotland.
The cost over five years to all funders is £670,000, but Mr Ratter said he was confident the investment would pay dividends for the isles.
“The council is putting in some tens of thousands per annum for five years. It’s not a huge amount and others – HIE and Creative Scotland – making their contributions as well.
“The model, I suppose, would be the chair of Nordic Studies based in Orkney, but has some of its staff here. Shetland contributed to the development of that as well and after five years were up and its public funding came to an end … since that point it has been entirely self-sustaining – in fact it has generated a surplus.
“So it’s seed corn money. It’s not open-ended. Five years funding to get it up and running and then after that it’s expected to sustain itself out of national education funding plus whatever else they generate.”
Mr Ratter said creative industries should bring in around £2.5 billion every year to the Scottish economy – £2.4 million per year in Shetland.
“This development will see the Highlands and Islands – and Shetland – taking a leading role in developing and benefiting from a growing sector,” added Mr Ratter.
More in this week’s Shetland Times