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Tavish seeks Fair Isle hardship fund

SETTING up a hardship fund to help islanders out of pocket after the collapse of the construction firm building the new Fair Isle bird observatory are to be explored.

On Monday Fair Isle residents met with the leadership of Shetland Islands Council and isles MSP Tavish Scott to press their case for help.

Island households and businesses are owed between £60,000 and £70,000 for accommodation and the hire of equipment after contractor AH Wilson Ltd, of Orkney, went into receivership earlier this month.

Mr Scott said that he was seeking an urgent meeting with rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead to secure government help for Fair Isle.

The idea is to get financial assistant from all the funding bodies towards the £4 million observatory to help the small businesses pay their bills.

The new bird observatory opened for business 10 days ago despite not being completed by the contractor.

Mr Scott said: “Small businesses in Fair Isle have been left substantially out of pocket.

“Monday’s meeting was all about how we help them. I welcome the SIC convenor’s commitment to explore all avenues of assistance. All the bodies that funded the new Fair Isle bird observatory need to help.

“The government have a significant financial investment in the project. So that is why I hope to see Richard Lochhead this week in parliament. I want to arrange a formal meeting so a Shetland and Fair Isle delegation can explain the full extent of the situation.

“It’s good that the observatory is open and visitors can use the new facilities. But we all agreed at the meeting to work very hard to ensure that the Fair Isle businesses can be helped if a way can be found.”

Fair Isle resident John Best said: “The observatory is a part of our community and we are pleased to have their assurances to work with the other official agencies to redress the damage.”

The project received £400,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, £1.15 million from Shetland Islands Council and £1.9 million from the Scottish government’s rural development programme.

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