June 2011 Move Shetland Newsletter

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Hello again, I'm Alastair, with a monthly sampler of life in Shetland for those of you who may want to consider living in these intriguing and rewarding islands.

June is a very special month, because of course it brings us - already - to the longest day, 21 June. By the end of May, there's no darkness, just a sunset that pauses in the north before turning into a very early sunrise. Children wanting to stay up until it gets dark learn that they'd need to stay awake for at least a month.

June's Shetland events calendar is always jam-packed, this year embracing not only the legendary Sunday Teas in our many community halls, art exhibitions and the colourful annual spectacle of the Bergen-Shetland-Bergen yacht race but also other entertainments including an evening with comedian Al Murray. Along the roadsides and in the meadows, the palette of wild flowers is at its most colourful. The cliffs are alive with seabirds and - if you're not already following developments at Sumburgh Head - you can catch up with our Puffin Cam here. There are seals, otters and whales to spot, too, and endless daylight in which to do it. It's also a great time to enjoy our many beautiful beaches: as we report below, several of them have just won another clutch of awards.

If there's a bit of a theme to this month's newsletter, though, it's the public services on which we all rely. Shetland is fortunate in having a range of services that consistently win praise and awards. Although the islands aren't exempt from painful decisions about economies, it helps that Shetland is a small community and that those managing the sector know each other well and can work together in partnership. If you're thinking of moving to Shetland, the fact that good services exist is obviously important. If you're someone who might want to work in our public services, we hope you'll be reassured to know that you'll be among colleagues with an impressive track record. We have more about public services in Shetland on our website.

However good our public services are, there's always a role for those who strive to raise money for deserving charities. Shetland has a great tradition of fundraising and now Jim Leask and Ewan Anderson have decided to go the extra mile - in fact, 887 extra miles - to raise money for The Archie Foundation, SOFT and The Fire Fighters Charity. They plan to walk around the coastline of every inhabited island in Shetland and it'll take them more than a month to do it. You can encourage their efforts with a donation on their website.

I hope you enjoy this month's news.

Shetland Energy Recovery And District Heating Project Win Major Award

William Spence, Plant Manager and Neville Martin, District Heating Manager have been awarded the James Watt Medal for a paper they have written on the Energy Recovery Plant and Lerwick District Heating Scheme.

The medal, named after the Scottish mechanical engineer and inventor who died in 1819, is awarded annually by the Institute of Civil Engineers and celebrates excellence within technical writing.

The Energy Recovery Plant has been operating successfully in Shetland for 12 years, burning domestic, commercial and industrial waste from Shetland, Orkney and Offshore to produce heat for approximately 50% of the buildings in Lerwick. Hot water generated by the plant is purchased by Shetland Heat Energy and Power Ltd and distributed around the town via insulated pipes. More than 1,000 properties, including many houses and public buildings, are connected to the scheme.

'There are very few district heating schemes in the UK' said Neville Martin, 'so we were glad to have the opportunity to write about the way things work in Lerwick and to show it as an effective method of waste management.

The paper discusses the negative connotations that still exist in the UK in relation to the word "incineration". Unlike in Europe, where it is seen as good environmental practice, incineration is often viewed in the UK as a dirty and undesirable process.

'Visitors are often surprised that there is no big cloud of black smoke coming out of the plant" said William Spence. 'Incineration is not a landfill in the sky. It is an incredibly efficient way of capturing energy from municipal waste that would otherwise have been dumped in landfill.

'The plant operates at 80% thermal efficiency and has become one of the leading players in reducing carbon emissions and fuel poverty in Shetland. Now that the infrastructure is in place, the opportunity is available for other waste heat resources to be exploited in the future"

Both William (on the left in our picture) and Neville are looking forward to attending the award ceremony in October at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London and will be presenting the paper to the Institute in 2012.

Shetland Beaches Recognised With Seaside Awards

Keep Scotland Beautiful has announced that five Shetland beaches will fly Seaside Award flags above their sands this year. Shetland has received Rural Seaside Awards for Sands of Breckon, St Ninian's Isle (pictured), Tresta, West Sandwick, and West Voe. The Seaside Award programme has been recognising Scotland's best managed beaches for 18 years, and this year 56 beaches have achieved award status.

Stephen Cooper, of Shetland Islands Council, said that they were 'delighted' that Shetland had once again increased the number of award winning beaches. 'Not only does it show the excellent quality of Shetland's natural environment, but also the commitment of the local communities who play a significant part in beach management. Last year, two of our beaches were in the top three favourites in Scotland. This year we hope to maintain that high standard'.

A map is available online showing all the award winning beaches with descriptions, directions, facilities and pictures. You can also rate your favourite award beaches.

Shetland Salmon Firm Wins Retail Award - Twice

For the second year in a row, salmon producer Grieg Seafood Hjaltland UK Ltd has won the best retail product award in the fish and seafood category for its WildWaters smoked, marinated and fresh salmon at the 2011 Scotland Food & Drink Excellence Awards . The awards, which recognise the best of Scotland's food and drink industry, were revealed at a ceremony hosted by BBC Radio 2 food expert, Nigel Barden, at Dunblane.

Collecting the award, the firm's Stella Winks, said: 'To win such a prestigious award once is a major achievement, but to win twice is truly outstanding'. Managing Director, Michael Stark, added: 'We are delighted to have won such a prestigious award, particularly when you consider the other products shortlisted in our category'.

Meanwhile, the islands' promotional agency has linked up with Grieg Seafood at the European Seafood Exposition in Brussels. Our picture shows Michael Stark with Andy Steven, Promote Shetland's Destination Manager, who attended the event to gain an insight into the commercial and promotional activities of Shetland's largest salmon producer. He also took opportunity to offer his knowledge of Shetland as a commercial and tourist destination.

Andy Steven said: 'Joining up product and place marketing is mutually beneficial and Michael has clearly demonstrated this with their innovative WildWaters range. It is both refreshing and a privilege to work alongside a team that understands the importance of provenance.'

Shetland Actor Stars In Radio 4 Adaptation Of 'White Nights'

Shetland around midsummer is the setting for 'White Nights', the second novel in Ann Cleeves' 'Shetland Quartet' and, appropriately, BBC Radio 4 is to broadcast a dramatisation of the novel starring Shetland-born actor Steven Robertson. He'll play the Shetland detective, Jimmy Perez, who in this tale is again faced with mysterious deaths that challenge his skills.

Perez travels to one of the remoter corners of Shetland to attend the launch party for an art exhibition by his girlfriend, Fran Hunter. One of those present is an unknown Englishman who claims not to know who he is or where he's from. Next day, though, he's found hanging in a nearby boathouse. A second murder follows and Jimmy's task is made no easier by his relationship with Fran.

The Shetland quartet has won lavish praise. Susanna Yager, in the Telegraph, described 'White Nights' as 'a good, character-led mystery, which displays the art of storytelling without recourse to slash and stab'. Colin Dexter said that 'in true Agatha Christie style, Cleeves once again pulls the wool over our eyes with cunning and conviction'. The Sunday Times praised 'Cleeves's affectionate portrait of this small rural community'.

Steven Robertson was born in the village of Vidlin and attended primary and secondary schools in Shetland before studying for a BA at the Guildhall School in London. He has appeared in many stage or television productions and in several films. He was nominated as Best Actor for his performance in Chekhov's 'The Seagull' and more recent projects have included Channel 4's 'Shameless'.

Ann Cleeves says that it's 'great news' that Jimmy Perez is to be played by a Shetlander. You can hear the play on Radio 4 at 2.30pm on Saturday 2 July and afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

If you're a writer, or perhaps engaged in a research project, Shetland could be an inspiring base, or a place where you can order your thoughts free from the stresses and strains of urban life, either for a short stay or permanently. The Scots poet, Hugh MacDiarmid, wrote much of his best work here in the 1930s and others have followed in his footsteps. There is an active network of authors and poets and Shetland Arts can put you in touch with them. Occasionally, residencies may be available.

Craft Trail Demonstrates Great Range Of Work

It's not only writers and poets who find that Shetland nurtures their creative spirit. Around forty artists, craftspeople and related shops and outlets are now to be found along Shetland's first ever Craft Trail, which has just been established. Studios - some purpose-built, others in spare rooms - have been opened to the public and visitors can buy direct from the makers and designers.

Planning for the trail, by the Shetland Arts and Crafts Association, started in 2009. To guide visitors around it, there is an excellent Shetland Craft Trail leaflet (.pdf, 0.7mb download), with a map and details of all the participants. Each member also has distinctive signs for their premises.

The current strength of the art and craft sector is reflected in the number and variety of participants. Wendy Inkster, secretary of the Association said:

'We have members from Fair Isle to Unst, from Sandness to Whalsay, with crafts ranging from traditional knitwear to innovative designs in textiles, wood, glass and pottery; as well as some truly original artwork. This is a great opportunity for creative practitioners and manufacturers to sell to visitors and Shetlanders alike, and an opportunity for the public to buy genuine Shetland products throughout the year. A strong and growing industry has been hidden away from view for too long'.

Despite the title 'Craft Trail', there's no need to follow a set route. It's possible to concentrate on one geographical area or on one type of work (knitwear or art, maybe) or just wander at random. Everywhere, though, visitors will discover a great variety of high quality work and a warm welcome.

Shetland Singer Among 'Great Scot' Nominations

Astrid Williamson , a singer who hails from Shetland, found herself nominated as Great Scot at the recent Johnny Walker Blue Label awards ceremony in London. She was in good company: other nominees included Sir Alex Ferguson, Billy Connolly and Sir Chris Hoy. The winner of this year's award, in recognition of her outstanding humanitarian work, was Annie Lennox OBE.

Astrid said that she was 'delighted to have been nominated'. She'll be appearing in Shetland this summer during the visit of the Tall Ships Races in July.

Child Protection Website Launches

Readers who have an interest in the fields of health, education, social work or youth justice may be interested in exploring one of the islands' latest websites, established by the Shetland Child Protection Committee. The Committee is a partnership that brings together a number of local agencies with the aim of ensuring that children in Shetland aren't harmed by abuse or neglect and can have effective help when they need it. The website signposts the various kinds of help available and contains useful resources for professionals involved in child protection.

The last Government inspection of child protection services in Shetland was completed in September 2009 and it rated most aspects of the services good or very good. The report on the inspection is available online (.pdf document).

If you're interested in working in any field relating to child protection in Shetland, opportunities do arise from time to time. Our website has advice on where to look for job vacancies in Shetland.

Social Care Traineeships On Offer

Shetland Islands Council is now sifting through the applications for its successful annual programme of one year Traineeships in Social Care which come with a guarantee of part time employment (30 hours per week or more) at the end of the year if performance targets are successfully met. Twelve trainees will be chosen from among those who've applied.

The programme runs for 35 hours a week and consists of a mixture of work-based learning and periods in college, as well as taster placements within the NHS, the voluntary sector or in social care - for example, at one of the Council's care homes such as Nordalea in Unst, pictured. This should give the trainees a real insight into the different types of work going on in this challenging area of service provision. They'll also gain a qualification in Health and Social Care.

Trainee Co-ordinator Ruth Einarsson, who has 17 years' experience in the care profession, said: 'We are offering a paid traineeship, where you will gain a qualification and have the guarantee of a job at the end of it. This is an amazing opportunity for anyone who is considering a career within a caring profession".

The latest group of Trainee Social Care Workers are coming to the end of their training and are looking forward to starting employment in August. Trainee Gary Smith said, "I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. Coming from a construction background, I wanted to do something different which involved helping people. Had it not been for the traineeship I probably wouldn't have become a social care worker. Having a regular wage during training has been a big advantage as I have a mortgage and a young family".

Shetland College Impresses Inspectors

The course that the Social Care trainees follow at Shetland College has been singled out for praise by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education in a recent report. Having visited Shetland in March this year to meet staff, students, College Board members and employers, inspectors said that the College has high quality learning and teaching processes, is well led and that students are achieving high quality outcomes. They also highlighted the College's work with industry to support the curriculum and efforts made to prepare learners for the SVQ level 2 in Health and Social Care as areas of "excellence".

The Inspectorate believed that the College's strengths included:

  • being highly responsive to the needs of the Shetland community;
  • working well with partners to identify and respond to the needs of learners and its community;
  • having campuses and learning centres that are geographically well-sited and offer a wide range of programmes;
  • high student retention rates;
  • learners who are well prepared for further study or employment;
  • learners who enjoy their learning and relationships between learners and teaching staff that are positive;
  • teaching staff who use a range of teaching approaches that meet individual learner requirements well;
  • learners who are well engaged in planning and enhancing their own learning, particularly through participation in opportunities for wider achievement; and
  • strong and effective leadership to support learning and teaching.

The inspectors identified some action points:

  • attainment rates for full-time learners could be improved;
  • arrangements need to be put in place to help students set goals and reflect upon their learning;
  • Students should be given more opportunities to contribute to enhancing the work and life of the College;
  • College managers and teaching staff need to ensure they evaluate learning and teaching effectively.

Director of the College, Professor David Gray, said that he was 'very happy' with the report and put it down to the hard work of staff and the students themselves.

He said: 'The life of a College is dependent on the quality of staff it has and the way in which students come in and engage with the learning environment those staff create. I think this report shows that we have a very high quality facility here that is serving Shetland well. We also have a very motivated group of students who enjoy being a part of the College'.

Professor Gray concluded by saying, "We have a few action points to work on and we have strategies in place to address those. But overall, I am really pleased with the report and feel that staff and students should be proud of their efforts".

The full HMIE Report on Shetland College is available online.

Inspectors Also Praise Britain's Most Northerly School

Baltasound Junior High in Unst, the most northerly school in Britain, has won praise too. They noted its pupils' enthusiasm in learning, a strong sense of belonging, caring staff, a vibrant community and the achievements of its young people. Among the particular strengths identified by the inspection team were:

  • An inclusive ethos across the school and learning community, providing "a strong sense of belonging."
  • The enthusiasm of young people "who are keen to learn and who have an influence on their school and community."
  • The achievements of local young folk "in a wide range of settings, in and beyond school."
  • A caring staff "working together to ensure the health and wellbeing of young people and adults."
  • An "active and vibrant community in which to grow and learn."

In this letter to parents from the HMIE inspectors, there are positive comments on other things, including recognition that young people are successful in sporting and arts activities and take a very active interest in local heritage and environmental projects.

The inspection team and school staff agreed on four areas for further improvement:

  • Develop consistently strong approaches to helping young people reflect on how well they are doing and how to improve.
  • Improve whole school approaches to developing young people's literacy and numeracy skills across all aspects of their learning.
  • Continue with current plans to improve approaches to planning and monitoring learning.
  • Build on existing strengths in the community to support sustainable economic development.

The inspectors said they were sure that the school and the learning community would be able to make the necessary improvements in light of the inspection findings and they don't plan any follow-up visits.

Shetland Records Impressive Health Waiting Times

The Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary for Health, Nicola Sturgeon, has promised 'no let up' in efforts to reduce waiting times. She has pledged that, by the end of this year, patients across Scotland should expect to wait no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment. In the nation as a whole, the target is already being met for 85% of patients. However, the figures from NHS Shetland are well above that average, with more than 98% of patients already getting treatment within the 18-week timescale; in January 2011, the figure hit 98.9%.

Health services in the islands are of good quality. GP practices and nurses are to be found throughout Shetland and consultant surgeons at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick perform a wide range of procedures, aided by up-to-date equipment that includes a CAT-scanner. Where appropriate, they liaise closely with colleagues who perform more specialised operations in Aberdeen or elsewhere in Scotland.

Long Term Plan Under Review

The process of Community Planning guides the work of the public sector in Shetland and Professor Peter McKiernan and Dr Gary Bowman from St Andrews University have been assisting the council with a piece of work called Scenario Planning. This is a method of predicting futures, given what we currently know. It involves interviews with individuals and groups from local industry, public and community sector organisations and the local community, as well as workshops in which different scenarios are played out.

Dr Bowman describes Scenario Planning as like a "postcard sent back from the future". It's hoped that, by imagining life in Shetland in 20 years' time, we can make better decisions now.

The consultation is now being broadened out through an e-survey asking questions about Shetland's future. It asks:

  1. What is the key strength of Shetland?
  2. What is the main weakness of Shetland?
  3. What is the key aspect of Shetland's culture that differentiates it from other islands?
  4. What are three key features of a positive future?
  5. What are three key features of a negative future?
  6. What should Shetland do now to achieve a positive future?

Anyone can contribute, whether or not they live in Shetland.

Olympic Torch Will Burn In Shetland

With Shetland's tradition of fire festivals, people carrying torches are hardly a novel sight. However, a very special torch will be on display next year. It's been announced that the Olympic Flame will come to the islands as part of its journey around the UK, arriving on Sunday 10th June 2012. Local people have been invited to nominate isles torchbearers who should be 'inspirational people who have gone beyond their personal best'.

The London 2012 Organising Committee said they were delighted to be coming to Shetland, demonstrating that the London 2012 Olympics is an event to be shared by people throughout the UK.

Shetland is one of 74 locations which the Olympic torch will visit. The event is seen as an ideal opportunity for Shetland to display its culture and heritage to the world's media and help raise the profile of sport on the islands.

The Olympic Flame will arrive in the UK from Greece on Friday 18 May 2012 and the 70 day Torch Relay will start at Land's End, Cornwall on the morning of 19 May 2012. After an 8,000 mile journey around the UK, the torch will ignite the cauldron at the opening ceremony on 27 July 2012, signifying the start of the games.

Blog Of The Month

Each month, we usually provide a link to blogs about Shetland so that our readers can look at the islands through other eyes. This month, we've chosen the North Isles Community Newsletter (.pdf, 4.1mb download), which is not strictly a 'blog' but does offer a flavour of life in our northern isles of Unst, Yell and Fetlar. Not surprisingly, they focus on the Baltasound School report that we cover above but, among other stories, they report on the restoration and opening of the magnificent Belmont House and the proposed restoration of Brough Lodge, the remarkable re-use of a lifeboat from the liner 'Canberra' and the wide range of events planned for June in these three islands. It's a really good insight into the community and well worth a read.