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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 July, 2005, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Jobs crisis spurs on Shetlanders
By Louise Andrew
BBC Scotland's news website

Pupils from Baltasound Junior High School
The school roll will fall at Baltasound Junior High School
News travels fast in a small community. Even quicker when an island with a population of just 700 hears it is to lose 100 jobs.

Islanders on Unst have been reeling with the news that the RAF radar base, their biggest employer, is to close.

It will impact on everyone on the small Shetland island. One local businessman described it as the "domino effect".

"A large proportion of people living on Unst are connected to the base.

"It's a huge population decline," said an McEwan, the co-owner of a media production company based in Unst.

He explained that while it would not necessarily affect his business, it would affect him.

"My wife is a teacher at the school and a lot of the primary school are from RAF families," he said.

"If the roll drops the school could be brought into question. It's a bit of a shock to hear."

His worries are shared by many. Joan Ritch, who owns the Gerratoun bed and breakfast, said it would make a huge difference to the island.

We're a small community already, we can't afford to lose anyone
Joan Ritch
B&B owner

"On an island of 700 people, even losing a dozen people would make a huge impact. We're a small community already, we can't afford to lose anyone, particularly local people," she said.

Kerry Sutherland, 19, works at the Unst Leisure Centre, and both her parents work at the RAF base.

"They would have to look somewhere else for jobs," she said.

"They will be able to get jobs, but just not on Unst. If you have to travel on the ferries every day, it would be expensive."


Mrs Ritch says a tunnel to the neighbouring island of Yell would be the answer.

"We need a tunnel to the next island. That would be our saviour. A tunnel to the next island would mean people could live on Unst but work anywhere in Shetland."

Apparently she's not the only islander with a solution.

The idea of being in a crisis spurs people on
Ian McEwan

Mr McEwan said that the community would rally round with ideas for the way ahead.

He said: "People are pretty resourceful. It's a strong community. The idea of being in a crisis spurs people on.

"It will be devastating but people won't hang about. I think that's just the way, living on an island," he added.

Despite the upbeat nature of the locals it is hard to see what will replace the RAF radar station.

Even Mr McEwan admits that the closure really only leaves salmon and crofting on what is Britain's most northerly inhabited island.

Task force tackling job cutbacks
03 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Ingram visits jobs shake-up base
26 May 05 |  Scotland

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