SALMON farmers in the Shetland Islands complained yesterday that the pounds 1m promised by the Government as an emergency fund after the Braer oil tanker disaster was a sham and had not been used to ease their cashflow problems.
Instead of becoming an instant lifeline to those whose livelihood was threatened, the payment, announced by the Government after it was accused of inaction, was paid into the General Compensation Fund.
That is administered by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund which can only pay out where proof of loss is produced. Yet the scheme, announced by Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, on 11 January was supposed to tide businesses over until claims were paid.
In its submission to Lord Donaldson's inquiry into coastal pollution - set up as a result of the Braer disaster - the Shetland Salmon Farmers' Association said: 'In fact the pounds 1m only assisted the cash flow of the IOPCF.'
Chris Young chairman of the association said before the hearing in Lerwick 'the money was shuttled between the Shetland Islands' council and the IOPCF. It did not assist the cashflow of salmon farmers and others which it was supposed to do.'
Sources in Shetland yesterday confirmed that the money, which will be paid back to the Scottish Office, had ended up in the general pool of cash from which pounds 9.25m has been paid out by the IOPCF and the ship's insurers.
The bulk of the money paid out, more than pounds 7.8m, has gone to salmon farmers. A quarter of them are still in an exclusion zone and are forbidden to sell their fish until tests have shown that they are free of pollution. Almost pounds 7.2m of this was paid for the loss of all the salmon which these farms put into the water in 1991. But a dispute has blown up over whether the 1992 stock will also have to be destroyed.
Mr Young said 'We have made a number of proposals to the IOPCF but they have failed to come up with anything and there is no offer from them on the table at this point.'