Post calms the waters after causing storm in Shetlands

By Hamish Mackay

The Birmingham Post has been forced to apologise to Shetland islanders after branding the UK's most northerly outpost as the most depressing place in Britain.

And the reporter who wrote the story — education correspondent Shahid Naqvi — is heading for Shetland at the invitation of the local tourist board to do his own in-depth report from the islands.

Naqvi told BBC Radio Scotland on Wednesday: "I will do an informed and impartial piece once I have seen the situation for myself."

The islands' fightback has been led by the weekly Shetland Times, which last week carried a double-page spread of reaction, and Shetlanders have bombarded the Birmingham regional daily with emails of complaint.

The Post had quoted Roger Casemore, director of counselling at Warwick University, as describing the Shetland Islands as a "bleak, windswept outpost plagued by suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence".

The Post, which mistakenly claimed that the islands were within the Arctic Circle, alleged that the Scottish outpost was "more grim than Tipton on a cold, wet and windy winter's day", and said one-quarter of the islanders exhibited symptoms associated with mental illness.

The Post ultimately published an apology under the headline "Sorry Shetland".

The penitent daily said: "Unlike the inhabitants of Tipton, the Shetlanders have risen in passionate defence of their territory.

"The Shetlands' strong sense of identity and vigorous defence of their locality suggests the islands are far from the most depressing place in our country.

"Further research has indeed opened our eyes to the charms of one of the ‘most unique natural environments in the world'."

It added: "With fears of the far right gaining influence in this week's local elections, it is perhaps also a timely reminder of how misinformation can breed hatred within different sections of the community.

"And so, in the spirit of friendship, we offer our apologies for any offence we may have caused to the people of Shetland."

Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, added: "The Birmingham Post is wise to apologise — given that this is the city that has given us Spaghetti Junction, the Bullring and Crossroads.

"It has been said that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

The same is clearly true of those who live in the more unattractive concrete structures in the Midlands of England."

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