In the wake of the severe weather preceding Christmas 2012, which seriously disrupted the North Boats and ultimately led to the Tesco “airlift” to these beleaguered islands, I wrote to The Shetland Times extolling the virtues of the excellent shops in the North Isles and the good service and range of goods they provided, especially in those extreme conditions when the Lerwick supermarkets were bereft of goods.
The question of Tesco and rural shops has come to prominence once again with the proposed introduction of Tesco.com. To some Tesco is perceived as the enemy without and yet I maintain that a greater enemy lurks within, namely the SIC.
The re-introduction of ferry fares on Bluemull Sound and the failure to even offer North Isles residents any form of discounted fares for travel between the isles, as highlighted by Mr Christie-Johnston in last week’s paper, is having an adverse effect on both the social and economic lives of residents here.
How can the North Isles shops compete with Tesco and their online service when such high ferry fares exist? They are being handicapped from the outset.
To my mind Tesco has been good for the people of Shetland and I think the Lerwick store, for its size, is as successful as any in the UK. That speaks for itself, but we cannot see the rural shops disappear and the SIC should not be hindering but helping them to survive.
I just hope our respective community councils and more importantly our North Isles councillors vigorously lobby the SIC to get these iniquitous ferry fares scrapped or drastically reduced so that North Isles residents can move between the isles and support the rural shops.