A ROYAL burgh in Caithness has severed links with its twin town in the Faroe Islands until the "disgusting" slaughter of whales around the islands is banned.

For the past 20 years Wick has been twinned with Klaksvík, the second largest community in the Faroes. It has a population of around 5,000 and is known as the capital of the local fishing industry.

But Gail Ross, Wick SNP councillor who is civic leader of Caithness, has now written to Jógvan Skorheim mayor of Klaksvík, about Faroese whaling which she said, was not something that her town "should be associated with".

She said the twinning arrangement had been "faithfully honoured for many years".

But she added: "I and my two ward colleagues make reference to the recent slaughter of whales which took place in Bøur and Tórshavn, amongst other areas and whilst we note that this is not Klaksvik, I am afraid that the whole of the Faroe Islands has been tainted by these events.

"We do not agree that these events and the apparent joy it gave the townspeople is in any way or should in any way be linked to tradition. There may have been reasons of culling for food in the past but in 2015 it is unnecessary and cruel."

She said that whales are sentient beings, with feelings and emotions, their own communication systems, and form social groups.

"To drive them on to a beach and slaughter them in front of their family members is nothing short of barbaric," she said.

"We do not subscribe to animal cruelty in any way and it saddens me to have to sever links with your beautiful town until such times as we get a full assurance that this atrocity has ceased.

"I am fully committed to making this association work when the Faroe Islands can commit to a full ban on such a cruel practice."

Mr Skorheim has now replied to what he describes as the "ultimatum" from Caithness.

He said: "If you're asking us to choose between being twinned with Wick and our Faroese right to conduct sustainable whaling, you should know that this choice is not hard for us to make.

"However, it disappoints me to hear, that you are prepared to sever links with Klaksvik."

He said whaling was "part of the Faroese culture". "We don 't understand the alliance of friendship as if it gives you the right to dictate what we should and should not do in our country," he said.

"You should also know, that the grounds on which you base your arguments don't have much value in our opinion."