By Alan Bell

Our charity, the Scoottish Centre for Personal Safety, has been very lucky to be awarded funding from Comic Relief’s #ShiftThePower to pay for our travel and accommodation costs to enable us to provide our courses to females across Scotland.

However, when we received a request from Shetland to help female survivors of sexual assault and violence, we had to consider if this was a good use of the funder’s money.

Our minds were made up when an analogy of Shetland life was made to us.

During Covid, we were all asked to remain in our “bubble” – a limited group of people with whom we could have contact with, but no one else.

That is what it is like living in Shetland - all of the time. If someone attacks you, you can guarantee that you will bump into him or her when you go to the shops, the pub, or even just walking in the street.

It is a living nightmare where victims are continually fearful of meeting their attacker on a daily basis.

With the decision made to go to Shetland and help these women, we set about booking the ferry from Aberdeen and, amazingly, we were lucky enough to have NorthLink Ferries part-sponsor our return journey.

Before this began, I had never been to Shetland and figured it must be about a two or three-hour journey to get there. How wrong was I!

It actually takes 12 hours – yes, 12 hours - to get there on the ferry. I could have driven to Paris in the same time.

So, on Monday May 1, we piled into our people carrier and headed off to Aberdeen, arriving in time for the 7pm overnight sailing of MV Hjaltland to Lerwick.

The standard of both the ferry and service of all the crew can only be described as first class and, after a somewhat bumpy sea crossing, we arrived in Lerwick at 7am on Tuesday morning.

A lovely breakfast at Fjara Café and then we had the day to sightsee and gain our land legs.  

The day was not wasted, and we visited the ancient Clickimin Broch, Sumburgh Head Lighthouse, Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, St Ninnian’s Isle and, in the hope of seeing some puffins, Eshaness Cliffs.

Although we never actually saw any puffins, we all agreed that we had a fantastic time and, according to the locals, we were very lucky for the first week of May as the sun shone for us all day.

Wednesday and Thursday saw us teaching our personal safety courses to vulnerable females and the feedback we received was overwhelming.

I cannot describe the satisfaction we all get upon seeing and hearing the difference and life-long effect, just one day of training has on the women present. All felt more confident and left with vital skills to fend off any future attack.

Returning via the overnight ferry on Thursday evening, we arrived, all too soon, back on the mainland on Friday morning.

This trip and the empowering effects it has had on vulnerable women in Shetland could not have been possible without the funding of NorthLink Ferries and Comic Relief’s #ShiftThePower. We cannot thank them enough.

If you would like to know more about our Shetland trip, please check out ScotCPS on YouTube to see the video we made.

And if you would like to know more about the work The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety does, or if you want to read our Social Impact Reports in full, please visit our website

In the meantime, stay safe.

Originally from Ardross in the Scottish Highlands, Alan Bell is the founder of The Scottish Centre for Personal Safety charity based in Ardrossan.