Living and Working: Shetland

On Top of the World…
{mosimage}Shetland – diverse, dramatic, unique – and proud of it….

Shetland is truly unique. It has a diverse environment and a cosmopolitan culture. Its economic base is derived from a mix of traditional, modern and emerging industries and is a place where ancient skills, passed down over generations, are mixing with new and learned methods to create a dynamic workforce. Shetlanders have a strong community spirit and are fiercely proud of their islands, and rightly so, as they have much to be proud of.

Shetland is on longitude 01ºW of Greenwich and straddles latitude 60ºN, 598 miles (962km) north of London and just 400 miles (643km) south of the Arctic Circle. This is as far north as St Petersburg, Russia, or Anchorage, Alaska. Cape Farewell, the southern tip of Greenland, is 1450 miles (2333km) due west of Shetland, while Bergen is just 225 miles (362km) east. Even cold places like Labrador, the Aleutian Islands and Kamchatka lie far to the south.

Geologically, the Shetland Islands are the drowned summits of a range of low hills, rising from the continental shelf about 100 miles north of Scotland. But for somewhere so far north, Shetland has a remarkably mild climate. In winter, it’s the warmest place on earth – at this latitude.

Around Shetland the warm Atlantic currents flowing along the edge of the shelf meet colder water from the Norwegian Sea to the north. These mix with water from the North Sea to give Shetland its temperate maritime climate.

Getting There
Loganair operate in partnership with British Airways from Aberdeen (55mins), Edinburgh (1hour 25mins), Glasgow, London, Inverness and Orkney.
Northlink cruise ferries sail seven nights a week from Aberdeen (13 hours), calling at Orkney three times a week.
Smyril Line’s cruise ferry provides weekly connections to Shetland year round from Denmark, Norway and Faroe – and in summer from Iceland.

Getting About
Daily bus services link Lerwick with the rural districts and outlying villages. Car hire is available at Sumburgh Airport and the Lerwick Ferry Terminal. Frequent and inexpensive car ferries connect the main islands, with regular sailings to the offlying islands of Fair Isle, Foula, Papa Stour and Out Skerries.
An inter-island air service connects Lerwick with Fair Isle, Foula and Out Skerries.{mospagebreak}

Shetland’s economy is dominated by fish and oil but it’s much more diverse than that, with sizeable contributions from livestock rearing, tourism, quarrying, knitwear and craft work.
Three quarters of the islands’ employees are in the service sector, reflecting the high level of activity by Shetland Islands Council which runs inter-island ferries as well as providing all the usual council services.
The council’s partnership with the oil industry at the Sullom Voe oil and gas terminal has earned it millions of pounds in special oil revenues since 1976. These funds support several public trusts. The trusts provide vital extra help for social welfare, the arts, sport, environmental improvements and economic development.

Sullom Voe Terminal opened in 1978 and at its peak was pumping over 55 million tonnes annually. It’s still Britain’s biggest oil exporting port, handling around 25 million tonnes of oil a year from oilfields in the North Sea and the Atlantic. About 600 jobs depend on the terminal, the tugboats, pilot launches and port administration – with more in Lerwick Harbour, servicing the offshore oil and gas platforms.
Oil is big, worth an estimated £116 million a year (about 15% of the total value of the economy), but fish catching, fish farming and fish processing generate almost twice as much revenue and employ nearly three times as many people.

Fish farming started in Shetland in the early 1980s and at first was a small-scale, part-time and locally-owned business. It soon grew into a multi-million pound enterprise worth over £70 million a year [2002 figure] and largely controlled by international capital.

Thanks to the varied geology, Shetland has several large quarries producing high-quality roadstone and other aggregates, much of which is exported. In the island of Unst is Britain’s only commercial talc mine.
Shetland is perfect sheep-rearing country. The hardy local breed live on the hill all year round, thanks to their exceptionally fine, soft wool – the basis of the famous Shetland and Fair Isle knitwear industry.
Every autumn thousands of lambs are exported for fattening in mainland Scotland. Careful husbandry keeps island sheep free of many diseases common on the mainland and the local lamb has a unique flavour, due in part to grazing seaweed along the shore.{mospagebreak}

Shetland is also almost self-sufficient in milk and also produces pork and free-range eggs for local consumption.

The words “Shetland” and “Fair Isle” are pirated by unscrupulous textile firms all over the world but the genuine article is made only in the Shetland Islands and bears the “Shetland Lady” trademark. The combination of softness, light weight and warmth is unbeatable.
As well as modern factories making machine-knit garments there are still many hand-knitters working part-time at home. Traditional patterns, centuries old, are complemented by the work of modern local designers.

Shetland’s Education Service is committed to improving the quality of education for the 4,000 pupils.  The attainment of children and young people in Shetland is very good and above the national average. There are 34 schools: two High Schools, seven Junior High Schools with primary and nursery departments and twenty five Primary Schools, fifteen with nursery departments.  The quality of the schools and the resources within them are very good.
All children and young people are encouraged to reach their full potential through the framework and culture of high standards in Shetland.

Shetland NHS Board is responsible for the provision of healthcare facilities for both local residents and the transient population based on the North Sea oil installations, fishing vessels etc.
Healthcare Services are either Shetland-wide, where the service is available to everyone and is usually based in a hospital, or local community services, which are usually provided from a Health Centre. In addition NHS Shetland also has services which provide support for healthcare staff.
A range of in-patient, day-patient, out-patient, accident & emergency and local community services are provided at two hospitals, 10 health centres and a number of other locations in the community including schools, mobile units, the remoter islands and patients’ own homes.

If you choose to live and work in Shetland you can be assured of one thing – you will be living and working somewhere truly unique.