has quite a unique taste, probably due to the mosses and seaweed the sheep
eat, and recently has been given a healthy mark by scientists as a food
that helps fight heart disease in humans.
when the Sullom Voe oil terminal was opened and managed by a conglomerate
of 13 oil companies, the Shetland economy has been boosted enormously by
the oil industry. Our transport links had to be improved to cope with the
influx of oil workers transferring to the offshore oil rigs to the east
and west of Shetland. However, the downturn in the oil industry is starting
to show here. The slow decrease in oil workers going offshore via Shetland
could be due to oilrig automation and downsizing, and from oil companies
flying direct to their oilrigs from Aberdeen. This is having a noticeable
effect on the air traffic to and from Shetland.
fishing fleet has been hit very badly by fishing quotas and the price of
fuel for their vessels. There are far too many marine regulations being
imposed by the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for the standard
local fisherman to observe and abide with, costing them more money to implement
without them seeing any real return for their catches. The Shetland fleet
consists of some larger vessels that can literally fish anywhere. However
the smaller vessel fleet will unfortunately be priced out or forced out
of business by the UK government, ably assisted by the MCA. Fish landed
locally is sold locally, passed on for fish processing locally, or sold
on to the UK markets or to the Russian/East European Klondyker fleet that
regularly anchor outside Lerwick Harbour.
is another provider of local currency and jobs, with many fish exported
worldwide. Mussel farming is a recent industry with a good future.
been here for many years, but I believe is just starting to make headway.
Whilst the price of travelling here must put most folk off coming here,
we still get decent numbers making their way north. The shops benefit,
the local Bus Company and tour operator benefits and the hotels and guesthouses
benefit. I believe this will become an important industry here in the near
future. Eco-tourism is also growing at a fast pace here. There are quite
a few cottage industries that rely on tourism: locally produced knitwear,
rugs, paintings, trinkets and stones are but a few.
Now this is
something we have plenty of!
first settled in the Neolithic times, about 3000 BC. Since then, the Picts,
Vikings and Norse have come and gone, leaving their marks across our landscape.
Scattered about the isles you will see the remains of various structures,
including brochs, superbly built roundhouses and Cairns. The best sites
are at Scatness, which is fast becoming a site of major archaeological
interest around the world.
is another important site close by. St Ninians isle is famous for its
treasure find by a young schoolboy at an old chapel there in 1958. The
isle of Mousa boasts a superbly preserved broch, along with the one at
Clickimin in the centre of Lerwick.
in Lerwick, along with various smaller ones about the isles, depicts a
long harsh life for those who lived here in the olden times. Fishermen,
whalers, crofters and farmers, and their tenants, and the clearances are
facts that any visitor can find about.
have gone to where the grass is greener, and have made their mark across
the world. New Zealand has many Shetland descendants, as has the USA, Canada
and Australia. There is a Family History Society here where you can research
There is no
private education here. All school education is provided from government
controlled, but council run schools, based on the UK curriculum. The main
school is in Lerwick, catering for teenage boys and girls. There are also
schools that take in juniors as well as teenagers, known as junior high
schools. We also have primary schools for the beginners. Generally they
are very well run, with plenty of teachers and the standards of equipment
and teaching are high, if not excellent.
have a college, in Lerwick. Shetland College,
part of the University of the Highlands and Islands Project, can provide
full and part time education in a variety of subjects, including Computing
and IT, Business studies, Media studies, plus much more.
There is also
the North Atlantic Fisheries College, based in Scalloway, which provides
courses related to fishing, fish and aquaculture.
You can also
study from home, known as Open Learning, and join the Open University,
which is open to anyone who wishes to learn!
We have an
excellent health centre in Lerwick, offering swimming, gymnasium, sauna,
running and other facilities. There are also some good swimming pools around
the isles. Football is popular here, and so is Cricket. Golf is well catered
for, with courses mainly near Lerwick. Diving, Sailing, Pool and Snooker,
Darts, Squash, etc are all covered here.
even up here, we are not crime-free. However, serious crime is a rarity,
and usually confined to weekends in Lerwick, being the result of excessive
alcohol. But you won’t find a house alarm here, and you can usually leave
your car and house unlocked. The Lerwick area seems to suffer the most
crime, probably due to the close proximity of shops, offices and public
drinking places. We get the occasional stolen car, but being a group of
islands, it’s usually quickly found, as there’s not many places to hide
it! It’s usually someone who’s missed their bus home, probably after a
night on the town.
a problem here also: there is a small core of suppliers who supply to those
who want it. However the police are aware of this and appear to be
keeping it at bay. The biggest problem is in the transportation of large
quantities: Shetland is seen as being an easy door into the UK. They often
travel by boat from distant ports; they won’t risk the English Channel
as it’s too well watched, so they travel north up the UK coast, then either
go over the top of Scotland or further north over the top of Unst (our
most northerly island) onto their intended destination. But we have an
excellent Customs Service that monitors all vessel movements, and they
will physically act on any suspicious vessel. The locals often play their
part in reporting these vessels when they are close inshore.
This is a good
place to bring up your children where they are safe to play on their own
This is gaining
momentum each year, and is popular with cruise ships, of which we get over
40 per year. Tourism really hit rock bottom in 1993 when we had the infamous
Braer tanker grounding on our shores and spilling some of its contents.
Thankfully the visible damage was minimal, and you will not find any trace
at all of the vessel (which sank below the waves) or its cargo. I can personally
vouch for this, as I regularly walk those same shores, which are just three
miles from my home.
of visitors are generally elderly, and have travelled by one of our ferries
or a cruise ship. We get many Germans and other Europeans visiting, and
the occasional visitor from further afield.
don’t think any visitors stay long enough here, there’s just so much to
see! Most are here for one week only; maybe not realising just how big
the isles are, and most vow to return. Some even come back to live here.
I’ve been told
there are 13 denominations of Christianity here. We certainly do have plenty
of churches, of all shapes and sizes. I’m not aware of a Synagogue here,
though I know there are some Muslims here.
We do have
television and radio services broadcast to here. Whilst most of the UK
mainland can get the standard five terrestrial channels, we can only get
four, but the fifth can be received with a satellite system, which are
quite common up here. Most terrestrial TV antennas are located in people’s
attics to protect them from the elements, but you cannot do that with satellite
dishes, which must have a clear view of the sky. There are some relay stations
on the biggest hills for those in the more sheltered areas.
We can receive
all of the BBC’s four VHF FM radio stations, as well as BBC Radio Scotland
and our local commercial station Shetland Islands Broadcasting Company
(SIBC) on VHF also. There is no medium wave or short wave service.
We have a very
efficient digital terrestrial telephone system maintained by British Telecom,
as well as good coverage in most areas for digital mobile telephones by
the major UK suppliers (Vodafone and Cellnet). Other Cellphone companies
are starting to appear here also.
The most common
Internet speed is 48,000 bps using a single telephone line, though you
can also get ISDN and warp-speed satellite links at a price. The local
college in Lerwick has an extremely fast Intranet link to the other universities
and colleges that belong to the University of the Highlands and Island
Project (UHIp). ADSL is still in its infancy in the UK; I doubt it is available
The above services
are provided by microwave links to the UK mainland, with some backup submarine
If you plan
to visit here, then do certainly visit during our summer months, but you
must also visit in our winter months, to get a "real" feel of what living
here throughout the years entails. Most who visit here usually return,
and those who leave often regret it! You’ll either grow to love it here,
or hate it; there’s no in between. I’m definitely of the former!
opinions are those of the author, whether they be right or wrong!