21st September 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Airport security (James Sandison)

Having read about Alan Skinner’s recent experience with airport security at Sumburgh, I can only say that I echo his sentiments.

Having recently passed through security at Sumburgh once, Aberdeen twice, Heathrow twice and Rome once, I can say that Sumburgh has by far the most robust examination.

Even after taking off my shoes, I had to present the soles of my feet for examination! I was half expecting to get a pedicure. Nowhere else was I even required to remove my shoes.

The history of increased level of airport searches is interesting. At first there were body bomb attempts, then a shoe bomber. This led at first to removal of belts, then shoes during checks. Strange that since the underwear bomber no-one has been asked to remove their underwear. Look out folks, they have not caught up yet – soon they will be after your knickers.

Can we conclude from this evidence that Sumburgh and Shetland are far higher up the terrorists’ list than Aberdeen, London or Rome. I never realised that we were so important.

Or can we say, that if Sumburgh is carrying out checks to the required standard, then everywhere else is sadly lacking in maintaining a proper standard.

James Sandison


  1. Kay Mcintyre

    Rather it be robust than negligent and having travelled through Manchester, Aberdeen andGlasgow recently as well as Sumburgh yes I have had to remove shoes/ boots.
    Not a problem 🙂

  2. joe johnson

    I’ve no problem with the security checks at sumburgh airport. Its all done for our safety and also to stop drugs being smuggled in. Don’t forget Lockerbie and 9/11, Security staff have to be vigilant and security checks are necessary. I know sometimes it can be irritating but it’s all done for a reason and the security staff are doing their jobs, and a great job they are doing as well.

  3. sally millar

    I travel very widely and can safely say that the Sumburgh search is by far the most thorough (or ‘extreme’) of ANY airport I’ve ever been to! I’m afraid I rather uncharitably conclude that the staff simply don’t have all that much to do overall, so they take their chance to ‘really go for it’ when there is a flight!. It can be maddening, but at least the staff are patently ‘on it’ (unlike some airports where they appear to be comatose) and I guess we’d all much rather be safe than sorry! I always prepare by making sure that I’m not wearing boots or other things that will have to come off – some people are their own worst enemy in the way they dress and pack their hand luggage!
    The odd thing is that there is apparently no examination at all when you come IN to Sumburgh – and yet, if they wanted to prevent drugs entering , surely people should be searched on entry?

  4. Michael Garriock

    “Its all done for our safety and also to stop drugs being smuggled in. Don’t forget Lockerbie and 9/11, Security staff have to be vigilant and security checks are necessary”.

    I’m still trying to decide whether this is total sarcasm, or whether people really do swallow hook, line and sinker this kind of absolute scaremongering regurgitated with monotonous regularity by big media outlets.

    Lockerbie – The alleged “bomb” allegedly blew up in a cargo hold. The connection with personal searches of cabin passengers and hand baggage is?

    9/11 – When the intent of a hijacker is to be a kamikaze, there is no need to be armed to seize the plane, a piece of heavy hand luggage used as a weapon would be as effective within the confines of an aircraft’s aisle(s) and seating as any they could carry onboard concealed on their person.

    As for drugs, given how readily available they are throughout the western world, including Shetland, either they’re doing a very poor job on that one (which hardly inspires confidence that they’re doing a good job catching nasty weapon weilding “terrorists” either), or, as I prefer to believe, there are so many other avenues through which they can flow unhindered, that catching any few that make it on to planes makes no more difference than old Canute ordering the waves back.

    Airport security is there first and foremost to protect the fabric and assets of the airport itself, secondly to protect the assets of the client airline’s and other flyers using the facility and very much lastly to create an impression that the general public using the facility are “safe and being taken care of”.

    • William Sandison

      I’m with Michael on this one. It’s security theatre and largely a complete waste of time and money. We pay for it in increased taxes and time spent hanging around airports. Read what security expert Bruce Schneier has to say on the subject:


    • joe johnson

      Good lord, some people overreact sometimes on the readers views. All right then, what if there were no security checks? How safe would you feel?

      • Michael Garriock

        @ Joe Johnson: Equally as safe as I felt before security checks were started, and equally as safe as I feel right now with them. I don’t believe what is in place can prevent one determined enough person aboard a plane from being able to make it drop from the sky.

        If someone is determined/suicidal enough to cause mass carnage and destruction with total disregard for their own life, they will find a way to succeed, or be killed attempting it. Whatever barriers are put in place to “ensure safety” are created by humans, which by definition require only one human smarter than the mind which created them to breach them.

        Airport security as it stands very well may deter the opportunist element in much the same way as a padlock on your shed door does, but a very lower grade of security than at present would and always used to achieve the same result with considerably less oppressive inconvenience to the mass travelling public.

        Fanatics and zealots won’t be stopped by any means that allows air travel to be practically accessible and acceptable to the general public.

    • Peter Long

      Well said Michael. Those blanket security checks are absurd. The Police know who they are really looking for but in the interests of PC we are all supposed to pretend that anyone at all is likely to take up terrorism, even in their old age. And yes, drug screening passengers on internal flights is a waste of everyone’s time. There are illegal drugs in every prison in Britain. Let them prove they can clean up those places before pestering captive travellers. And when decent people have to show their soles to security staff then they can be certain that the presumption of innocence is firmly on the back foot.

  5. David Spence

    When I was travelling from Edinburgh to the States, I was required to take off my shoes and belt. I went through the detector without it beeping. However, when I arrived in New York I was asked to take off my shoes, belt and jacket when I was going onto a connecting flight within the States. I did say to the Security guard that my arm was paralysed and was not a pretty sight (want for a better description). I took my jacket off. It was to my surprise when going through the sensor, it beeped. I was asked to check all my pockets, went through again, it still beeped. The security staff were rather puzzled. I did tell them that I had an operation on my knee’s some years ago, where they realised the area of my body trigging the alarm was below my waist. This was the first time I had experienced such a security procedure, as previous alarms, in Edinburgh, did not go off. I was actually quite impressed by how efficient and understanding the security was. Once this was finished, the security guard handed back my jacket, apologising for the rather embarrassing situation I was put through. I just said ‘ It was understandable ‘ and thanked him for being considerate. I did not mind at all doing the security checks. It is a small price to pay (excuse the punn) for the added safety.

    • Ali Inkster

      You mean the state security police of that vile evil capitalist warmonger wanabe empire the US of A were pleasant in their vile evil capitalist blatant unwarranted breaching of your civil rights. I am surprised seeing as the USA is the epitome of all that is vile evil and warmongering in this world. Are you sure you did not go through a multi dimensional wormhole after leaving Edinburgh?

  6. David Spence

    ‘ As for drugs, given how readily available they are throughout the western world, including Shetland, either they’re doing a very poor job on that one (which hardly inspires confidence that they’re doing a good job catching nasty weapon weilding “terrorists” either), or……..there are so many other avenues through which they can flow unhindered, that catching any few that make it on to planes makes no more difference than old Canute ordering the waves back. ‘

    Good Point, Michael. It is rather disturbing that the worlds biggest supplier of Heroin is Afghanistan. It is estimated, when the Taliban ruled the roost (aided immensely by the USA) production of Heroin coming from Afghanistan was around 65% of the worlds supply. Now, after the USA has invaded, the production has increased to 95%, allegedly.

    Now, I am not saying there is a connection between illegal drug production and western Governments, but one has to look at the figures and make some guesses, lets say lol

  7. Haydn Gear

    Presumably Ali Inkster sleeps well at night as he dreams of his next holiday jaunt to places like North Korea, China, Iran,Iraq and numerous other countries where human rights are never breached. The US of A clearly has much to learn from such places if the views of A Inkster are to be given any credence.He’s either been living in an opaque bubble or else he doesn’t keep up with world news —– or both.

    • Brian Smith

      Never be ironic in a letter to the Shetland media, Ali – it’s fatal.

    • Ali Inkster

      Perhaps Haydn does not understand sarcasm?

  8. Haydn Gear

    Ali knows all about sarcasm as readers know only too well. He is very adept at it and few would be able to rival his amazing skills whenever he demonstrates it. However, the downside to such an accomplishment is that it is widely considered to be the lowest form of wit. For that reason I’m more than happy for him to remain captain of that sinking ship.Keep bailing out Ali !!

  9. Ali Inkster

    For the record Haydn I’ve been to Iraq and China they were both easier to get in and out of than the good old USA. The border guards were courteous except in Boston where I was required to declare whether or not “I had ever been or was still a member of a terrorist organisation” I have to say sarcasm was required on that occasion too, when I enquired “If I put down that I was in the IRA would they get out the red carpet and the brass band, followed by a whip round.” So it may be considered the lowest form of wit Haydn but sometimes it is the required response, and it obviously went right over your head.

  10. David Spence

    God forbid if the good old US of A should ever been known for supporting terrorists (sorry, freedom fighters) Ali (said with the utmost ….) lol

  11. Haydn Gear

    So Ali, if you had been unwise enough to sarcastically state that you were Vladimir Putin’s ambassador in Shetland, tucked away for security reasons, do you really believe that the Boston airport Boys would have just sent you on your way with a bottle of vodka in your pocket saying “have a nice day buddy and a good flight to Tingwall airstrip”. Or might they have yanked (forgive the pun) you into a brightly lit room to do a strip search? Assuming you did get through unimpeded, would you attribute such good fortune to your charm and well honed linguistic skills or did the Boston Boys feel sympathy for you? Always remember, it’s better to let someone think you are an idiot than to open your mouth and prove it ! That of course is good advice for very ordinary people not for the top 1% —–such as yourself !!!!!!

    • Ali Inkster

      Putins ambassador or one of Obama’s drone pilots. Nazi’s installed in the Ukraine by the EU or a driver of a Russian aid truck. What was the point of your comparison? Maybe I should explain mine in words of one syllable for you Haydn. The USA and Boston in particular were the prime funders and backers of the IRAs terrorist campaign in the UK. so when asked about my affiliation to terrorist organisations my reply was heart felt. The mere fact that the question is on the form in the first place suggests a level of stupidity that you may be comfortable with Haydn but not me.

  12. Haydn Gear

    Interesting to read Ali’s assurances that it was easy to get out of China and Iraq.There are many millions who would not share his view and when I visited Shanghai I was very aware that everywhere I went someone was always following me. Also, it was always the case that it was never possible to move freely out of choice. Yes Ali, easy to get in and easy to get out but not so easy to move around easily.As for north Korea—forget it.It is all too much in evidence that to even speak words of dissent could and does lead to severe retaliation and punishment.I’m pretty sure that sarcasm would be a definite NO NO so life would not be very comfortable.The Boston airport Boys probably thought “another clever dude here” and felt pity rather than anything else.For sure, making jibes about the IRA wasn’t clever

    • Ali Inkster

      Yes Haydn it was easy to get in and out of Iraq and Syria and while folk may of wanted to leave it was not the millions fleeing to save their lives. But then when I was there Saddam was in charge and Assad senior was still alive. Now neither of these men were my favourite human beings but after a while I came to see that they were the only thing standing between the people and anarchy, fueled by centuries old religious and tribal hatred. Just as in Libya without Gaddafi there is nothing but chaos and death. All those millions fleeing would gladly see the return of the “brutal dictators” overthrown with interference from inept western governments trying to impose our ideals and standards on countries that are not ready or willing to live by them and the result you see today. As for getting followed in China 🙂 you’ve been watching too many movies or maybe you work for MI6? But us ordinary bods were allowed to roam at will with no more hindrance than I would expect in the UK.

  13. Michael Garriock

    @ Haydn Gear: Just to play devil’s advocate for a minute. Has it ever occured to you that the vast majority of Chinese or North Koreans might actually prefer their respective nations the way they are, and consciously live there in the way they do to keep them so?

    We outsiders looking in only hear the occasional interview with those who do leave, who be definition obviously didn’t like it how it is, and are obviously going to bad mouth the regimes involved. That and the usual drip feed from the media about how oppressive such nations are. The level of bias in such evidence is incalculable.

    To our eyes, as they are portrayed to us they certainly oppressed, but who are we to arrogantly judge those nations and peoples by applying our societal standards and lifestyles upon them in the belief that in some way we are saving them from (what to us would be) a living hell, and implying that in some way our ways are in some way “superior” and that “we know what is best for them”. There’s echoes of distasteful empire building and colonialism still very much alive and well in that lot I’d say.

    Would a majority of North Koreans and/or Chinese welcome democracy and western societal standards if offered to them on a plate? I don’t think we can know the answer to that. Based on our perspectives we’d be baffled if they didn’t, just as many worldwide are equally baffled right now why Scotland didn’t grab the chance of independence, but that’s what happened. We maybe cannot believe they would choose to live as they do, so assume they must be being forced to do so, but that’s a judgement made by us seeing them through our eyes, not them seeing themselves, which at the end of the day is what matters.

    It is not our place to judge the populations of other nations, especially using our own regime and society as a benchmark. Regardless of how much we perceive another nation’s people as being oppressed, we have no way of knowing in the cases of North Korea or China if the majority within the nations shares that view, and in any case, change must come from within not from some alien power, as regardless of how much however many within the nation might fear their current regime and society, they almost certainly will fear an alien (in their eyes) invader, equally, if not more so.

    As regards being followed in China. I’d be pretty sure any visitor to any nation who “checked the right boxes” for whatever reason would be “followed” in some capacity. If you happened to, for whatever reason visit a “wrong” address in the UK, you’d most certainly get followed, whoever you were and wherever you were, that much is published in the public domain in court reports regularly. I’ll credit the Chinese with at least an element of honesty about doing it, if you knew you had a tail, almost certainly the tail wanted you to know you did. So you were well warned. In most western societies dishonesty runs deeper as they’re a whole lot more sneaky than that.

  14. Haydn Gear

    Ali and Michael ,I can’t deny you both made some very good points and certainly thought provoking. I would simply add that I did not work for M16 and was in Shanghai as a tourist within a group.Other people in the group also noticed that the same shadowy figures kept us company more or less all the time, so, no it had nothing to do with movies!!! I imagine that it is not possible to have these sorts of exchanges in many of the places we have mentioned— what does that say? I wonder how the refugees in Calais desperate to reach Britain would see things.

    • Ali Inkster

      And do these refugees at calais so desperate to get here face the same rigorous security checks before entering the country that we do. You also need to ask yourself if as they claim they are fleeing for their lives then surely the first safe country should be all that is required not pass through the whole of the EU before plonking themselves down in the UK with their hand out for benefits. That is the question that needs asking when it comes to refugees. Why was the rest of the EU not good enough for them to seek refuge?

      • Brian Smith

        They face such rigorous checks that they sometimes lose their lives.

  15. Haydn Gear

    Well Ali, you’ve drawn attention to a few old but hot chestnuts which nobody wants to hold.Clearly ,the refugees in Calais are very desperate people running away from terrifying conditions in their homelands.Why would they choose to uproot if all was well in their countries? And since the EU seems not to follow in the footsteps of The Good Samaritan it’s not surprising that Britain appears to be the logical place to target.Thinking laterally, maybe we should be proud to be regarded as a good and safe haven.The rest of the EU should be ashamed.Recently we were told by the mandarins of Brussels that we owe an extra £6.7 billion to this cockeyed organisation. Well, how about substantial rebates for accepting refugees they have rejected by making it easy to move across Europe to take their chances on being able to make illegal entry to Britain? The Vikings raided Shetland and northern England, the Romans and the Normans contributed much, the Huguenots and Jews sought shelter, ( initially in east London)and the Indians,Pakistanis,West Indians and Bangladeshis have all come to better themselves and their families. I believe much the same happened when the English,Scots,Welsh and Irish made for America, Australia ,India Africa and New Zealand.It’s swings and roundabouts. Perhaps it would be better to embrace those set on coming here.Once settled, they would probably bring benefit to Britain. I think it is short sighted and discriminatory to suggest that all they want is benefits on a plate.

  16. Ali Inkster

    Since you have decided to join us Brian I will direct these questions to you.
    1. Just what is it about the rest of the EU that folk who have just escaped from famine, war even genocide are not content to settle there?
    2. Just why would anyone with a choice want to a part of something that even the most desperate folks in the world are not willing to settle for?
    3. If the UK is so bad why are these folk willing to risk their lives to get there from France.
    4. If Scotland is so much better and fairer than England why do so few of them bother to make the much less hazardous journey north once they are in England?

    If you could manage more than your usual few words I’m sure the readers would be most grateful.

    • Brian Smith

      I am not sure why you are asking some of these questions, Ali, I didn’t say that ‘the UK is so bad’. We still have a relatively decent society, despite ongoing attempts by Cameron, etc. to make it much worse. That is why people sometimes make desperate attempts to come here – to Scotland as well as England.

  17. Haydn Gear

    May I please be allowed to piggy back on Brian? Maybe it’s because Britain is a victim of its humanitarian success and sense of fair play and values. Having made the break from hellish conditions, why settle for second/third/or fourth best when they know that the UK is number 1 ? Ali’s point 2 makes no sense to me.Perhaps he would kindly unravel it. (3)Who said the UK is so bad? Surely the contrary is the case. (4)Do they know that Scotland is so much better and fairer than England and if so, who spilled the beans?!! England has a long tradition of absorbing people in dire need and they will know it.Don’t forget, many folk think that England means the UK. An American was recently heard to ask (before the Summit in Newport) “which part of England is Wales in?” THAT really pleased the Welsh!! Of course, if Ali and his ilk have a few spare rooms, I’m sure that salmon farms and hot tatties would attract Syrians to Shetland. If a load of Mancunians could give Foula a try (1997 was it?) I imagine that Shetland would be a walk in the park!

  18. Haydn Gear

    Just a quick correction. In my previous email I stated that the EU wants a £6.7 billion additional payment. That should have been a “mere” £1.7 billion. To err is human , so that’s reassuring!!

  19. David Spence

    Ali, I am intrigued as to your views and (if indeed there is any) sympathy towards immigrants who are genuinely fleeing their country because of war, civil war or being tortured and killed if they were to return to that country compared to those people wanting to better their lives because we in Britain can give them, potentially, that opportunity due to our successful, vibrant and compassionate society that we have created. Even now, much of the worlds conflict (predominantly for the benefit of the good old US of A) is the result of the west imposing its will for the benefit of the west, military, economically and territorially.

    The creation of the barbaric Islamic group Isis is the direct result of the west (especially the USA and the UK) providing military weapons and training against the Anwar Sadat regime in Syria, which has now completely gone out of control with the present day fighting in Syria as well as Iraq. Ali, would you deny people that have suffered under the barbaric regime of Isis, but have managed to escape, and find themselves on our shores?

    Where do you draw the line between humanitarian help and economic necessity in assessing the right for people to reside in this country?

    • Bill Adams

      David, I think you mean the Bashar Assad regime in Syria. Anwar Sadat was Mubarak’s predecessor as the Egyptian Head of State until he was assassinated.

  20. David Spence

    I stand corrected, Bill. Thank you.


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