Well said Mark Wylie, I agree with every word. The sporting and leisure communities need to wake up to the looming threat to their stunning success which has been built up steadily since 1985.
The threat arises from the Shetland Charitable Trust’s need to stem the annual outflow of its capital and live, sustainably, on its income.
Otherwise, a time will come when the money has gone and all the facilities may have to close. We’ve seen the same elsewhere with the SIC’s programme of rural school closures except that the communities faced them down.
And yet Shetland overpays tax versus government funding received by £80 million a year? This is the core of the problem, not the financial tourniquet applied in haste by charitable trustees to stem the haemorrhage.
If Shetland had Faroese-style autonomy the £80 million a year tax surplus would be retained, along with, most likely, a tidy sum from the oil and fishing industries on top. That money could be used to support educational, leisure and care facilities, assist transport or whatever else local voters desired.
Faroese-style autonomy for Shetland is entirely feasible – it nearly happened in 1979. All it needs is Shetlanders to reserve the right to “opt out”, should they vote no in a future independence referendum, within an overall Scottish yes vote. That right must be reserved on Shetlanders’ behalf by their political leaders who must be both willing and free to do so.
Sporting and leisure associations must rise to the challenge and be prepared to fight to save their facilities as the rural communities did with their schools.
In particular, enthusiasts must make time to campaign and/or, at least, turn out and vote for politicians, council or parliamentary, who demonstrate – not just talk – a clearly pro-Shetland stance.