Shetland's economy relies heavily on fisheries, aquaculture and oil and gas. Taken together, these industries account for the majority of exports and over half of private sector employment. However, to a great extent, through external ownership, regulation and legislation, Shetland has limited direct control over the future direction of these industries.
Other sectors important to Shetland are tourism and the creative industries, particularly for the Fragile Areas. In tourism our unspoilt environment and rich wildlife are internationally recognised and with effective development and promotion could be raised to world-class standard. Shetland's particular strengths of textiles and music are of central importance to the creative industries sector. As elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands, this is a sector characterised locally by small organisations and part-time involvement.
The energy sector has significant potential through both renewable energy and oil and gas decommissioning. Shetland's location and its natural wind, wave and tidal resources are important assets for the islands' future economic success. However, Shetland's peripheral location makes the exploitation of these new opportunities reliant on good transport links, excellent connectivity and, increasingly, grid and pipeline infrastructure to export potential supplies of energy.
The life sciences and financial and business services sectors currently have a lesser presence in Shetland but potential opportunities must be recognised and supported.
Like many rural communities, Shetland has experienced a steady migration towards its main centres of population. However, it is important for overall success to maintain strong and vibrant communities in all parts of the islands. Communication links are of fundamental importance to these communities. HIE believes improvements to physical and electronic connectivity should be targeted at all areas and not just the main population centres.