Shetland Times Column 6th August 2021

On Tuesday we learned from the First Minister’s statement of the move “beyond level zero” for Covid restrictions from Monday.

As the Olympics draw to a close, and with Paralympics due to start soon, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Olympians and wish Paralympians well. It has been a spectacular show in Tokyo and I am sure that will continue later this month in spite of all the obstacles of the past two years. Globally we can look forward to the 2022 Winter Olympics and Commonwealth games next year.

There is always a lull in excitement after a summer of sport ends, but locally there was excitement last weekend with the senior inter-county football match which saw the Milne Cup being taken back to Orkney.  Sadly there was no senior inter-county hockey match this year, although the juniors had a game in Brae on Monday.

We can also look forward to the 2023 Island Games to be hosted in Guernsey. Shetland has a great history in the Island Games, hosting in 2005 and winning a total of 251 medals, 62 Gold. Orkney is set to host in 2025.

One of my favourite images of the Olympics was of gold champion Tom Daley knitting while sitting in the stands watching the diving. If the excitement of Olympic competition isn’t enough for him and he wants to improve his knitting skills, I suggested via Twitter that perhaps he could be enticed to come to Shetland and learn from our experienced and creative knitters.

Those who take part in sport are role models for the next generation and I have been particularly impressed with the dignity and humility of the Olympians.

The road to the long-awaited college merger has been a difficult one but I am pleased to see proposals come to fruition. The organisations involved - Train Shetland, Shetland College and NAFC Marine Centre - are now a ‘one-stop-shop’ as Shetland UHI.

NAFC Marine Centre has made an enormous difference to the fishing, aquaculture and marine sectors, and Shetland generally, over the last 30 years. While rightly reflecting on the past and the contributions made by so many people to the success of NAFC, it is to the future we look to now. The formal opening last Friday of the new Lerwick Fish Market demonstrating, if any demonstration was needed, how important fishing is to Shetland.

I would like to commend all involved for their focus on the project, which ensures education, training and research are at the heart of Shetland’s future. As we prepare for life after Covid-19, with changes to how we learn and develop skills for the workforce in industries such as renewables and across the maritime and marine environment, the merger comes at a crucial time for Shetland’s economic development.

There are strong foundations on which to build, learn and train at Scotland’s ‘top college’ with all the expertise of the three merged organisations.  I wish Shetland UHI every success for the future.

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