The Scottish SPCA has given the Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group the option of buying or leasing the building which until recently housed the charity’s wildlife rescue centre.
And SSPCA inspector Mike Flynn has told SOTEAG that it is not the national charity’s role is “to pay to keep a building open in case there is an oil spill on behalf of an oil industry which makes multi-billion pound profits”.
SSPCA decided at the end of last year that it was not economically viable to continue to run the centre in Tingwall, and it shut at the end of last month.
The move was greeted with dismay and disbelief in the isles, with wildlife groups condemning it as a “retrograde step”. They queried SSPCA’s decision to ship oiled birds and injured wildlife south, after initial treatment in Shetland, to a state of the art centre in Clackmannanshire.
Many thought the wildlife would not survive the journey, but SSPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said it did not “make sense” to keep the centre open. In 2012 it had cost £13,000 to run and only released 10 birds.
SOTEAG was one of the groups condemning the closure. In a letter to SSPCA, chairman of SOTEAG Mike Richardson said the lack of consultation about the move was “regrettable” especially as much of the finance to set up the unit in 1993 had come from the oil industry. He claimed the under-utilisation of the unit was good news, and it could be needed at any time.
Recently an online petition against closure gathered more than 1,500 signatures.
Now Mr Flynn said SSPCA would give SOTEAG the chance to acquire the building.
He said: “We have offered SOTEAG first option to buy or lease the building which housed our wildlife unit on Shetland.
“SOTEAG were aware we were reviewing the unit’s future in December and approached us in March following our decision to no longer use the building to outline their concerns about what would happen in the event of an oil spill which resulted in wildlife casualties.
“We believe SOTEAG buying or leasing and taking responsibility for the building would be an ideal solution and we are awaiting their response.
“We have been clear that SSPCA will continue to have staff on Shetland to rescue sick and injured wildlife. Otters and seals will still be taken in by Hillswick Animal Sanctuary as usual and, where possible, other animals will be cared for on the island and released when they are fit and healthy.
“It makes sense for wildlife casualties needing long-term rehabilitation to receive expert care at our National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Clackmannanshire, which takes in animals from throughout the Scottish mainland and islands, has dedicated facilities and a far higher survival rate than our Shetland unit.
“Running the unit, which released 14 birds last year, has cost our charity more than £250,000 since 1993 and it was not necessary to keep it open when we can care for animals and give them as good and possibly a greater chance of survival elsewhere.
“We have stressed to SOTEAG that our role is to investigate and prevent cruelty, rehome animals and rescue animals in danger, not to pay to keep a building open in case there is an oil spill on behalf of an oil industry which makes multi-billion pound profits.
“The SSPCA would play a full role on Shetland if there was an oil spill, saving animals from suffering and transferring surviving animals to our National Wildlife Rescue Centre, which cost £3.5 million and has facilities to care for more than 1,000 oiled birds.
“If SOTEAG believe the unit needs to be kept open they have the opportunity to consider our offer to either lease or buy the building at the price it is valued at.”