24th January 2020

Entrepreneurs often start out working from home, but it can be difficult sometimes to meet prospective clients when you’re operating out of a small space under the stairs or from your bedroom. It’s no different for Shetland entrepreneurs, but now there’s another option.

On Monday I was invited to visit Co-Work Shetland, a new business facility in Lerwick, set up by John Pottinger. The office space in Bank Lane has been converted into a shared area where small businesses and freelancers can operate from individual work stations without the domestic distractions. It’s a welcome innovative addition to the town centre.

The first event in the Year of Coast and Waters 2020 kicked off in Holyrood on Tuesday evening with A Celebration of our Living Seas. The Year of Coasts and Waters is a programme of events designed to celebrate and promote Scotland’s fantastic coasts and waters. At the event on Tuesday, I caught up with the Scottish Wildlife Trust and heard about their Wildlife Watch network of children’s nature clubs. They were telling me that there isn’t a Wildlife Watch group in Shetland yet but they are keen to hear from anyone interested in starting a club. This was after I had pointed to the map on their display board and observed that Orkney and Shetland weren’t on it.

By the time this column is in print the outcome of Thursday’s lunchtime debate in Parliament about HIAL’s air traffic management proposals will be clear. There’s certainly a view that the outcome of the consultation to centralise the service in Inverness was clear from Day One. It was a fait accompli.

I first learned of HIAL’s Air Traffic Management Strategy 2030 when I was a councillor. Change was necessary, we were told, because recruitment and retention of air traffic controllers was difficult; that the method of air traffic control currently used in the HIAL network is out of date and out of step with the rest of the world; and that HIAL had to future-proof its operation to ensure continuity of service.

No-one I’ve spoken to is against a modernised, safe service. There are though genuine and legitimate concerns, not of change itself, but of a process that has not been transparent, that the introduction of remote towers brings with it issues around resilience, and that highly trained personnel will be lost to communities across the network.

HIAL notes that this will “impact” 86 jobs. Ripping highly skilled jobs out of our communities beggars belief and is contrary to the Islands Plan which was published only last month.

In case you’d missed it, next Tuesday is Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ day. There’s always a terrific buzz on the street that day amongst visitors and local people alike, with the shops along the street joining in the fun with their fiery window displays.  I hope the weather gods will be kind on Tuesday, but whatever the day brings I’d like to take this opportunity to wish Jarl Liam Summers, his squad and their families, a great Up-Helly-A’.



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