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Hans J Marter

20 February, 2008

A SMALL, remote and industrious Scottish island community is trying to attract migrant workers in a bid to boost the local workforce.

In a unique move, Shetland Islands Council and its business investment arm Shetland Development Trust, have agreed to pay for two accommodation chalets to be erected on the island of Skerries.

The 75 island residents are struggling to cope with the workload in the community owned fish factory Bound Skerries Seafood which processes organic salmon reared on the island.

The factory employs up to 12 people but finds it impossible to attract new workers due to the lack of suitable accommodation on the 500 acre isle, 24 miles north east of Lerwick, which also has three full time whitefish trawlers and a number of scallop boats.

Bound Skerries Seafoods managing director John Weston said they had work for five to six extra people, and would welcome new families to boost the population for whom the chalets could be their first temporary accommodation.

"We have five people working full time on the salmon farm. The fish is then being processed in our own factory. We now have enough fish to keep the factory going all year round,” Mr Weston said.

"But that brings the problem that we don't have enough full time staff here. We have three full time in the factory and anybody else who is available is coming to help part time, including the fishing crews that are off for that week.

"This is fine for the short term, but we can't do this all year round. So, what we need is more people living in Skerries.

"Long term we would like to see people coming here and building their own house. The chalets are just a stop gap to get people here either as temporary or seasonal workers or to find some who want to settle down."

Over recent years, Skerries has bounced back from troubled times in 2003 when the isle's salmon farm went into receivership due to worldwide over production and the subsequent collapse of prices.

But five years later, with the emphasis on organic salmon and the revival of the fishing industry, islanders are as busy as never before.

Mr Weston added: "Our salmon is recognised as a high quality product and we are getting a better price for it.

"The factory and the farm is community owned. It is not being operated to pay shareholders. It really is operated to give the best quality of life to the whole of the island.

"It is an ideal set up if we can only get the right balance of people," he added

The development trust earlier this week agreed to grant the community £31,400 which will go towards preparing site foundations and getting the chalets, which are being donated by the council, out to Skerries.

Local councillor Josie Simpson, who also chairs the development trust, said last night that it was pleasing to see a remote island community thrive.

Last year, islanders successfully fought off a proposal by the council to close the secondary department of their school. With one secondary pupil at present it is the smallest secondary school in the country.

Most recent update - Tuesday, 06 May 2008 17:07
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