Shetland times Column 22nd January 2015

HNP Ltd provide an essential marine engineering service in Shetland. Other local engineering companies do the same. They complement each other to provide a one-stop-shop service. This makes Shetland's shore side business service attractive to visiting vessels that need engineering work and local boats.

Our local economy is at a cross-roads. Oil and gas companies are shedding workers. 65,000 have gone from the industry already. Crude oil prices are hovering at $30 a barrel. So costs are everything. Shetland needs to be highly cost competitive to win work. Winning work and providing a service is Job Number 1. 

Yet HNP and their 16 employees are fighting for their future. Could HNP operate from a different part of Lerwick? Yes. But the company does not want to move. Should a company be forced to move by a landlord owned by the people of Shetland through a Trust? Most people think not. 

Why then are the publicly accountable organisations all saying its nothing to do with them?

  1. The University of the Highlands & Islands want to build student accommodation in Lerwick. This will be for the local colleges and provide beds for public sector people such as police officers and NHS staff.
  2. UHI use Scottish Government money to pay for such buildings and own them after some years. It is similar to the new AHS which will eventually be owned by the SIC.
  3. In late 2015, SLAP, the property company owned by Shetland Charitable Trust received an offer from UHI's property for the Commercial Road site currently leased to HNP.
  4. HNP made a commercial offer to SLAP to purchase their site in September 2015.
  5. The SIC's planning department have yet to receive a formal planning application for the site. It is not yet known whether SIC panning have already discussed such an application.
  6. Alternative sites in Lerwick are available such as the present site of the AHS.

So the logical outcome would be to find a new site for the student accommodation. SLAP would not make quite so much money. But they would receive a commercial sum for the Commercial Road site. The SIC will not have to confront a highly controversial planning application. Given the appeal on the Olnafirth pizza premises that would appear prudent.

UHI have so far claimed this is nothing to do with them. That is breathtaking. They issued a press release championing new student accommodation in Lerwick. Rightly so. It is good news. But how they can claim the site is nothing to do with them when the building will be paid for using public money is beyond belief. The UHI should ask the SIC to help with locating a better place for the student accommodation. They should do that now. HNP's engineering apprentices are UHI students. Why the UHI do not see their responsibilities to these students is puzzling. UHI cannot hide in Inverness and pull a duvet over their heads.

HNP's present building is not perfect. It is not the ideal site. But Shetland needs engineering businesses concentrating on meeting customer needs. Not fighting the public sector to survive.

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