Does anyone else read the stories of Promote Shetland and feel as though it is a poorly backed venture? Here's my quick take on it's three key area's.
1) Live in Shetland: I love my Island home, but lets see a few broader issues here. Where are people to live? There is a huge lack of rented accommodation here and a lot of the stock is way over priced, Although the prices may come down with the gas plant completion. Most people who would want to live here would nearly always want to rent until certain of stopping here. However those that want or can buy, then a lot of houses are now more expensive than those south, where you get cheaper shopping, fuels, electricity, choice etc, etc
2) Work: On the whole work is the only item of Promote Shetlands agenda that is reasonable, but if your needing people from outside of Shetland to help fill job's then it is useless without the cost of housing and the cost of travel coming down.
3) Travel and tourism. Two in the same really. The cost of getting on and off Shetland is ludicrous. I've had family have a two week package holiday in Portugal for the cost of return flights only to Shetland!!! The cost of getting here is also the main reason for people not to come here, trust me I've asked. But what happens to tourist's when they get here, to answer that here's a direct quote from a relative "...however we won't be coming back, never paid so much for petrol, airfares, accommodation, food, everything. How do you afford to live there Bro?"
Without better infrastructure and investment into living and visiting in the Isles Promote Shetland seem's like the biggest waste of money since Olaf the Stupid ordered 500 Longboats with holes in the hull to reduce weight!
Since I live in Shropshire, I can only give an outsider's viewpoint on the points that you've raised.
In the last 15 years, I've noticed a significant increase in the price of properties in Shetland and especially so, in Lerwick. My mum's family is from Shetland and I think it is a really great place - I've often hankered to going there to live, but this is looking more and more unlikely. Those homes that might seem good value, always seem to need many thousands spending on them - probably a false economy; better to spend more and get the right property which doesn't need money spending on it. In Lerwick, house prices seem about the same as where I live in Shropshire; 15 years ago, I'd have said the houses in Lerwick were about half the price.
Regarding the cost of getting to Shetland, the cost implications are such, that I don't go up there anything like as frequently as I'd like to. I'm going up to Shetland next month, with my two sons. It'll be a good 400 miles up to Aberdeen and the same back, so that's 800+ miles, plus the petrol that we'll use whilst we are up there. In all, I reckon that we'll do close on 1100 miles - probably something the region of £150+ for petrol.
The ferry . . . . . . . "ouch !". The cost of a return journey by car, my two sons and myself is £708 ! The cost of where we are staying is £500. That's close to £1400 pounds and obviously, there's money to be spent on food, trips out etc., etc. We are going up to UnstFest - that'll cost on the ferry. I'm taking the boys on a sea trip to see seals & seabirds - another £80, then there's Jarlhof etc., etc. Some of these aren't expensive in themselves, but twenty pounds here and there, it all adds up. If my Missus hadn't had to stay at home, it would have been £800 for the ferry. For a family of four, you've really got to be very keen on Shetland to pay that sort of money.
The accommodation was paid by a deposit and then a settlement of the balance - being able to 'split' the payment was a big help. The boat trip had to be paid in full at the time of the booking. To have £700 or £800 going straight out of our account, is a big hit, it really has an adverse effect on our finances.
I went up to Shetland most years between 2000 and 2006 - I've not been back since, mainly 'cos i now have a family - so haven't been able to afford it. What i found previously, is that there were very few places for a family to eat out. In England, there's always a pub where you can take the family, have a drink and a meal - the situation may have changed now, but back in 2006, I found it frustrating that so few of the pubs in Shetland seemed to be making an effort to be more inclusive & attract a wider audience. I remember, when I went for a drink in the Kiln Bar in Scalloway, frankly I can't remember going into a less attractive and less welcoming pub. Having owned/worked and lived in a pub for nearly 30 years, i could easily spot aspects that could have been improved; I really can't think of any redeeming features that it might have had. Perhaps that pub is in new hands and has changed ?
I don't like being critical of other pubs, but it seemed that many landlords couldn't be bothered to make an effort. I remember going in to one pub and having fish and chips; the fish was clearly a frozen findus-type product . . . . . . . how can you visit Shetland and get frozen fish ? Talking about fish, the fish and chip shops were all very good indeed !
This time next month, I'll be in Shetland again - I really love the place; a shame that it is so expensive to get there, but there's always the scenery and the wildlife. In 6 or 7 weeks time, I'll let you know how I found Shetland, after 10 years of not having visited.