19th November 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Delight from SIC as Westminster pledges £10 million to tackle housing debt issue

SIC political leader Gary Robinson has hailed a budget announce­ment that the UK government will stump up £10 million to patch up Shetland’s historic housing debt.

He said today that two-thirds of a three-way settlement were in place and pressure would be maintained on the Scottish government to make good on its earlier £10 million commit­ment.

Earlier this week Westminster came under fire from councillors for stalling on providing its share of cash to the council, which ran up heavy debt on house building and associated costs during the 1970s oil boom.

That criticism prompted a res­ponse from the isles’ MP Alistair Carmichael and yesterday the £10 million announcement was made at Westminster as part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement.

Without the UK input, councillors heard at an executive committee meeting on Monday, there would be no new council houses built in Shetland for 25 years.

Mr Robinson said: “We are clearly delighted that the lobbying we have been engaged in for over a year now has finally paid off and we have been granted £10 million from the UK government in recognition of the difficulties we have had for many years on the historic housing debt.

“Of course it is just one part of the jigsaw. There’s a decision to be made in the council next Wednesday that would see the council pay off £10 million.”

Social services committee chair­man Cecil Smith said it was extre­mely welcome news and that the council had taken every opportunity when talking to the Scottish and UK governments to highlight the signi­ficance of oil and gas developments to the community, and the impact of the historic housing debt. It was “very heartening” to see Shetland’s contribution to the national economy recognised at the highest level.

Mr Smith said: “I would like to pay tribute to the work that has been done by our officers, and my fellow council members, to help resolve this situation. I’d also like to thank our MP Alistair Carmichael, who has worked so hard on our behalf.”

Mr Carmichael also welcomed Mr Osborne’s announcement that the money would be in recognition of the vital contribution that the council makes in supporting the oil and gas industry.

He said: “The council asked for £10 million to address the ongoing issue of their historic housing debt and the Treasury has delivered. I am delighted that we have been able to secure what the SIC asked for. This has been far from straightforward. If it were easy I am sure it would have been sorted years ago.

“It has ultimately been resolved because there has been a political commitment within the coalition government to recognise Shetland’s contribution to the national economy and see us treated fairly. We have reached that point now and the SIC are being given the money they requested.”

The money will come in two £5 million lump sums for “infrastructure development” in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 periods respectively and will be given to the Scottish govern­ment. The money will be ring-fenced to ensure that it is given to the SIC.

According to Mr Carmichael the  funding will be dependent on the Scottish government matching the commitment, but the Treasury is examining how to ensure the money reaches the SIC even if the Scottish government “refuses to contribute”.

He added: “Now that we have delivered this £10 million I would expect the Scottish government to do the same. They have never been slow to deliver an opinion on this matter. They now need to put their money where their mouth is.”

Mr Robinson said that pressure would be maintained on the Scottish government until it comes up with its own budgetary statement.

He said: “It was agreed the final part of this was for the Scottish government to come up with £10 million for new housing investment. That way all three parties will contri­bute to a lasting solution to some­thing that has been a problem.”

A report tabled by finance director James Gray earlier this week stated that writing off £10 million of debt will cost £575,000 in lost investment income for the council. The alternative would have been for the SIC to raise council house rents by 35 per cent next year, rather than the five per cent the exec­utive committee recommended.

SIC political leader Gary Robin­son at the same meeting said it was “a disgrace” that the council alone was having to shoulder the burden and that it was time for the governments to stump up.

“Both the Scottish government and Westminster are well aware that anything from the Scottish govern­ment is useless without a West­minster contribution,” he said.

Environment and transport committee vice-chairman Michael Stout had expressed his “anger and resent­ment” at the grossly unfair situation where Shetland was bearing the burden for providing a national asset. “We have Westminster in particular standing there with folded arms and refusing to help,” he said.

This year The Shetland Times ran a campaign over the housing debt and the newspaper’s “drop the debt”  petition was supported by more than 2,250 people before it was presented to Scotland’s local government minister Derek Mackay in July.

About Peter Johnson

Reporter for The Shetland Times. I have also worked as an employed and freelance reporter and editor for a variety of print and broadcast media outlets and as as a freelance photographer and film maker/cameraman. In addition to journalism, I have experience in construction, oil analysis, aquaculture, fisheries, the health service and oral history.

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49 comments

  1. Ali Inkster

    Still £30million shy o whit we are owed, hardly time for celebration

    Reply
  2. John Tulloch

    Given that Westminster was paying the interest, anyway, via the housing support grant, this seems like an act of extraordinary generosity by Westminster since the Scottish Government hi-jacked the interest payments for themselves by their “annexation” of the SIC’s housing support grant and funnily enough, the SG are the ones whose £10M contribution to the “negotiated” solution remains outstanding.

    What a surprise!

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      The housing support grant came from the Scottish governments “Block grant”, HAD that extra £2.2 Mpa been paid by the UK Gov, do you seriously think the UK gov would have stood by and wouldn’t have said anything when the SG could no longer afford to pay it?

      Reply
  3. Joe Johnson

    Another example of Better Together. if Scotland votes no to independence next year, we get the best of both worlds and this money shetland is getting from the UK government shows how we benefit from being part of the Union despite what the SNP say. I’m still voting no next year

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      Erm….there isn’t a referendum next year on independence Joe….unless ofc I missed it somewhere?

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Been a long day, has it, Robin?

        I can see it must be very tiring, losing arguments, on your own, all day long!

        Still, now that the indefatigable troopers of SNP Shetland have had their ‘grounding’ lifted, you’ll get some enthusiastic support – as long as nobody is a bit rude to them, offending their sensitivities. 🙂

      • joe johnson

        This post was written in december 2013 robin stevenson! Get your reading glasses on!

      • Robin Stevenson

        You’re absolutely right Joe, I didn’t even notice, my bad, having said that it looks as though it’s not just me needing to go to “Specsavers”?…Do you think if myself and Ali went together we might get discount for bulk buying?

  4. Victor Walker

    Nice to see that Westminister recognise the contribution that oil gives to the economy, of all of the UK. Whereas, the SNP will say its their oil and they wish to keep the revenues in Edinburgh. Not much recognition of the Shetland contribution there !

    Reply
    • John Jamieson

      £10 million out of the billions that have gone to London and you are celebrating ?
      The Scottish Government gave you £12 million to fix the Sumburgh runway.

      Reply
      • Ali Inkster

        it is the revenues from Sumburgh that keep the rest of the HIA airports open.

      • Robin Stevenson

        What did westminster do with the extra £300 Billion they’ve taken since the 70’s Ali?

      • Ali Inkster

        67% of which came from Shetland waters. Scotland receives proportionally in spending than the rest of the UK, so since the 70s that extra £300 billion (£201 billion was Shetlands money) and more was handed back to Scotland.

  5. john n oakes

    Doesn’t SIC still receive a revenue from Sullom Voe?

    Reply
    • Ali Inkster

      No. that went soon after the scoti parliament opened.

      Reply
      • Robin Stevenson

        How does that work when the SG don’t collect oil revenue?

  6. David Spence

    ‘ Still £30million shy o whit we are owed, hardly time for celebration ‘

    I guess we may have to wait another 40 or so years for the next £10 million Ali lol

    Reply
  7. Raymond Smith

    What a surprise we are awaiting for the SNP government to hand over monies to SIC (including the with held interest) to sort out housing debt. If we vote yes next year you can kiss goodbye to any further payment from the snp.

    By the way the much awaited white paper from the snp titled Scotland’s Future is an anagram for Fraudulent Costs. Wow – maybe they know something is hidden in the small print.

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      Wow….You’ve waited 44 years for this payment and the SNP [who have been in power for 8 years] are holding you back?….lol

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        @Robin

        As long as the loan interest was being covered by the payment of the housing support grant, everone was happy.

        Shetland was the only council receiving the payment. Why?

      • John Tulloch

        Eight years! But how many of those were you in coalition with Tavish Scott and the Lib Dems?

        It’s only after 2010 that you were able to stir up trouble and it only took you a couple of years to wreck an arrangement which had prevailed, happily, for more than forty.

      • Robin Stevenson

        How many other councils were daft enough to believe the UK Gov when they said “Aye Nae bother you pay out yer own money and we’ll give you it back, honest *cough*]?

        Shetland was all but bankrupt John, IF the Scottish Gov hadn’t stepped in to help pay their interest they’d have been Kaput.

        “It took you a couple of years to wreck an arrangement which prevailed happily, for more than forty”.

        Lol..are you serious? IF this money was being paid then why did the £50 Mill go up to £60 Mill in the 90s? and were you “Happy” paying £2.2 Mpa for ever then, without reducing the actual amount?

        Waken up John yer havering.

      • John Tulloch

        @Robin,

        I’m definitely not “havering”. I found numerous local media references at the time from people who would know and how many denials by the Scottish government dis I find?

        That’s right, none.

        Here’s another reference for you, this time from the pro-independence Shetland News.

        “He (Alistair Carmichael) said the current situation had been created by Holyrood’s decision to cease paying a housing support grant to the SIC “which, incidentally, they still get from Westminster – but for some reason that doesn’t seem to attract criticism”.

        http://www.shetnews.co.uk/news/7703-carmichael-hits-back-over-housing-debt

        Well, Robin, Mr Carmichael can be consoled by the fact that it has attracted plenty of criticism ever since.

        You may suffer from ‘ostrich syndrome’ over this issue but Shetlanders do not, as you’ll discover when Shetland voters express their opinion on Polling Day.

        “Paging Robert Sim! Robert, it’s getting near time to create a diversion so Robin can escape out of this one – just like you had to do over the Longannet argument.”

      • Robin Stevenson

        Sadly, this whole situation gets worse by the minute.

        Let’s pretend that Ali Carmichael is right, and the UK government has been paying the interest on £40 Mpa, which equates to £2.2 Mpa [according to someones figures?]

        44 years X £2.2 Million = £96.8 Million…Hmm…. I didn’t realize how shrewd these governments have been all these years? plus the bill of £40 Million is STILL outstanding?….You couldn’t make this up?…No…wait, Ali Carmichael and John Tulloch could.

      • John Tulloch

        You denying it is meaningless, nobody from the SNP Scottish Government has denied it.

        I put it to you, Robin Stevenson, that that is a rare response, indeed, from innocents accused…. is it not?

      • Ali Inkster

        That’s how interest works “Wrong again Robin”.

  8. John Tulloch

    @Robin,

    The interest at 5.5 percent on £40 million is £2.2Mpa, equal to the SIC’s housing support grant which the SNP Scottish government now withholds from the SIC.

    From the Shetland Times:

    “But last year the Scottish govern­ment (abolished) a housing support grant paid to the SIC…..”

    “…… Figures within the Westminster coalition contend that a sum con­tinues to be paid to Holyrood for the purpose of servicing the debt each year. They say the SNP is simply choosing not to hand that money onto the SIC.”

    https://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2013/07/26/salmond-uk-coalition-should-stop-brushing-aside-sic-housing-debt

    If you pulled a stunt like that on me, you’d have a job getting me to the ‘negotiating table’, too.

    But Westminster put up the £10 million they were asked for, where’s YOUR £10 million that you were also asked for?

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      Westminster was expecting the Scottish government to make these payments from Scotlands “Block Grant”, in other words “passing the buck”.

      “Ms Johnson reminded Mr Mac­kay, in a frank, forthright but cordial manner, of how Shetland’s debt was distinctly different to that held by other local authorities. It was incurred, she reiterated, by building houses to assist the UK state’s desire to get North Sea oil and gas up and running.

      She also produced figures from a survey of council house tenants showing nearly 60 per cent believed it was primarily Westminster’s responsibility to deal with the debt”.

      I guess you’re part of the 40% [slow on the uptake] then John?

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        Quite the reverse, Robin.

        All money to Scotland from Westminster is paid direct to Holyrood, is it not?

        So the SIC’s housing support grant, intended by Westminster to cover the interest on the SIC’s 1970s oil boom housing loan, was paid to SIC until devolution when it continued to be paid – in good faith – as part of the annual sum transferred to Holyrood by Westminster.

        Several Holyrood administrations honoured the arrangement until SNP housing minister Margaret Burgess brought dishonour to the SNP by stopping it – and proposing that the SIC settle the debt from its oil reserves!

        “Use your oil reserves, boys – just like we criticise Westminster for doing!”

        Humbug! Dishonour and humbug!

  9. Iantinkler

    Is not the hypocrisy delightful? Robin Stevenson I quote, “What did Westminster do with the extra £300 Billion they’ve taken since the 70’s” Then he states, “Don’t ya just love the way that the Lib/Dems are only NOW saying “hey where’s oor share”?” now that is rare coming from a SNP sycophant, is it not Robin. The Salmond, SNP mantra, “It’s our oil, Scotland’s oil,” give us, give us, give us it all! It is no wonder whatsoever the majority view in Scotland, as on Thursday 2 April 2015 was anti-nationalist: “56 per cent of voters said they were voting against the SNP “to keep Scotland part of the UK”.” Anti SNP, anti-nationalist feelings up 1% to 56% since the referendum. Just extraordinary how the SNP has split the Scots with their divisive and unpleasant dogma. No wonder Sturgeon is now preaching friendship and love for the English, a bit late probably, clan divisive SNP have shown their colours and it is too late to put a mussel on wee Alex and Sellers. Not many will be fooled by Sturgeon’s hollow words. The nasty “nationalist” views are in the public domain, and have been for many months.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/wider-political-news/exclusive-poll-tory-attacks-on-snp-wielding-power-are-hitting-home.122124990. SNP no way.

    Reply
  10. iantinkler

    PS, the above, for information, Statistics from “” ComRes/ITV News poll” taken across 40 Scottish seats!””, 2 April 2015.
    http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/wider-political-news/exclusive-poll-tory-attacks-on-snp-wielding-power-are-hitting-home.122124990. (( Just to confound the disingenuous.))

    Reply
    • Robin Stevenson

      That was yesterday’s UK wide poll Ian [Do try to keep up]

      A YouGov survey of 1,100 people found the First Minister performed best during the seven party ITV shootout last night.

      Ms Sturgeon was named by 28 per cent of those questioned, followed by Ukip leader Nigel Farage on 20 per cent, Prime Minister David Cameron on 18 per cent and Labour’s Ed Miliband on 15 per cent.

      She also outpolled her opponents when YouGov asked people for marks out of 10, scoring 6.7 to Mr Miliband and Mr Cameron’s 5.9

      Whoop!!.. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Ali Inkster

    Would that be the same yougov that the SSnp were encouraging folk to sign up to before the referendum, the same yugov that came out with the skewed poll result a week before the referendum. Unfortunately the yougov polling system is ripe for this type of abuse.

    Reply
  12. iantinkler

    Robin Stevenson, take your blinkers off , ComRes/ITV News poll” taken across 40 Scottish seats!””, Quoted 2 April 2015. taken end March. Not A YouGov survey which is now discredited utterly!

    Reply
    • Robert Duncan

      How is last night’s YouGov survey “discredited entirely”? It had a larger sample and more rigorous methodology than the other snap polls.

      Reply
      • Ali Inkster

        In the run up to the referendum the SSnp had their supporters sign up to Yougov in huge numbers and this has skewed the demographic to favour the SSnp and any results they show are likewise skewed.

      • Robin Stevenson

        How exactly did the SNP manage to “Fix” the YouGov UK poll taken in England from English voters in English constituencies Ali?….omg…they are just sooooooo devious?….[aye right]

    • Robin Stevenson

      You’re right, polls are polls,…It just so happens, most of them are in SNPs favour, regardless of who’s conducting them? More than likely the thousands of “English” voters that tweeted, “We want an SNP in England”, read the wrong poll too? on top of the 1800 new members that joined the SNP during and after the debate,….Maybe you could tweet them all Ali and Ian between you, and tell them how wrong they’ve all got it?

      Reply
  13. clive munro

    Polls notwithstanding, guys, most of the websites I read today (BBC, Independent, Guardian, Telegraph) were of the opinion that Nicola Sturgeon performed impressively during last night’s debate and I’d have thought that anyone who watched (endured?) the whole spectacle would have to agree with that assessment, regardless of whether or not they agree with her policies.

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Clive,

      Like the Plaid Cymru representative, Nicola Sturgeon had no opposition figure from her own limited jurisdiction to debate with, Cameron, Farage, Clegg and Miliband were more interested in scoring points off each other.

      Clegg could lose a few Scottish seats but Cameron certainly had no reason to attack Sturgeon, the more seats she takes off Miliband in Scotland, the merrier for the Tories.

      Farage is unlikely to win a seat in Scotland but could do very well in England, so the more seats Sturgeon wins off Labour, the better his chances of forming a coalition with the Tories

      So if Sturgeon performed well it was because Miliband was too pre-occupied attacking the main parties and it may well have been very different, had Jim Murphy been opposing her?

      Reply
      • Robert Sim

        “… the more seats she takes off Miliband in Scotland, the merrier for the Tories.” It’s not that simple, John. Anti-Tory MPs are anti-Tory MPs, whichever party they represent and together they are able to prevent the Conservatives being in government. What it does mean is that Labour in order to govern will have to strike deals with the other parties.

      • Robin Stevenson

        Interesting point of view John, so the UKs leaders are [somehow] less capable of dealing with Nicola Sturgeon than Jim Murphy? and because they were so busy arguing with each other, then that’s the reason why Nicola came out top on UK polls?

        Now I’m REALLY looking forward to Tues night, when we’ll put your theory to the test?
        [psst, my monies on, you know who?]

    • Gordon Harmer

      Yeah she performed well, to an audience who don’t know her and by the sound of it who were taken in by her. She spouted the same soundbites and misinformation the SNP used for the referendum only told half the story on what Scotland gives to and gets back from the national kitty. Sturgeon, Farage, Wood and Bennett had nothing to lose all they had to do was say what people wanted to hear and that is what happened. It was a farce especially Sturgeon talking of friendship and solidarity with the rest of the UK when all she really wants is to break away from them. She even got applause when she ranted on about tuition fees or the lack of them in Scotland but totally forgot to mention that tens of thousands of thousands of college places that have been lost as a consequence. Plus that the rest of the UK pay for the free tuition up here through the unbalanced Barnett Formula.

      Reply
      • Robin Stevenson

        I seriously hope you’re not a Scot Gordon?…because if you are, then “Shame on you”.

      • Gordon Harmer

        Shame on me because I tell the truth Robin, or are you being some kind of bigot here. Are you sure you meant to answer my post or have you seen something I have written over a year ago that makes you say that. Actually Robin your meme is bang on the money, because your core belief is so strong you are incapable of applying common sense, reality, factual information or rational thinking into your decision making process, exactly the same as religious cults.

      • Gordon Harmer

        An absolute “must” read for all nationalists.

        http://effiedeans.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/the-road-not-taken.html

      • Gordon Harmer

        “It is better to build alliances and work together, rather than threatening to leave like a petulant child”, said Ms Sturgeon in the other nights “debate”. One has to wonder if she thought that statement through before uttering it, as it is advice she certainly hasn’t ever considered taking herself, as she rebuts “alliances”, refuses to “work together” and threatens to leave the Union like a petulant child, against the expressed wishes of the majority of the Scottish electorate. It has to be said; Ms Sturgeon had an easy ride the other night. She spent much of the debate smugly grinning and rolling her eyes as the more seasoned and capable politicians laid out their respective stalls.

        I was quite impressed by Leanne Wood, if only for embarrassing the Nats, by wanting parity with the “great deals” Scotland has secured. I noted that Ms Sturgeon’s immediate reaction was one of a squirming, “Oh bother. I hope I’m not going to be challenged on that”. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

      • Robin Stevenson

        “I was quite impressed by Leanne Wood, if only for embarrassing the Nats, by wanting parity with the “great deals” Scotland has secured”.

        lol,..make sense Gordon? how can you be impressed with someone, who herself was blatantly impressed by Nicola Sturgeon for managing to achieve these “Great deals” in the first place?
        And, why on earth would anyone with a morsel of common sense be “embarrassed” about achieving what’s perceived to be a “great deal”?

        Oh…and btw your “Doom and gloom” link?….[excluding the author] 4 comments says it all. 🙂

  14. iatinkler

    Only one poll mattered last year,the results are beyond dispute. enough said for now perhaps. Lets just wait and see. Heard the one about the English man, the Scots man, the Welsh man and the Irish man. Some fundamental a?&e-h£$e tried to make them hate each other. Just a “Nationalist”, enough said for now.

    Reply

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