THE Scottish government is being lobbied to allow lifeline ferry operator NorthLink to run summer sailings between Shetland and Norway.
In the past, Shetland has had various sea links with its Scandinavian neighbours, provided either by Smyril Line’s Norröna or, before 2002, by previous northern isles ferry operator P&O Ferries.
Whiteness resident Graham Irvine has now started an online petition targetted at the government’s review and re-tendering of the current lifeline ferry contract. A new contract will have to be in place by 2012.
Mr Irvine, a shift supervisor at the Lerwick power station, plans to present the petition to Scottish government officials who will be in Shetland on 9 and 10 August hosting two public meetings on the ferries review.
Mr Irvine said that the review papers state that “no potential routes will be excluded from the review” and also “include consideration of new routes and reconfiguration of existing routes”.
“As I understand it, our lifeline ferry service is contractually prevented from sailing anywhere else, except when volcanic dust clouds grounds flights.
“NorthLink rose to the task of rescuing stranded travellers superbly, when asked to, by the Scottish Government.
“P&O ran a successful summer sailing schedule and the Smyril also kept historical links alive by picking up passengers in Shetland en-route to Norway.
“Sadly the Norröna wasn’t commercially viable, but I have every confidence that NorthLink could make a summer sailing schedule work, while keeping the prices realistic without seriously compromising the lifeline service they provide,” he said.
He added that not having a ferry link to Norway was costing the isles dear economically and culturally.
“We have far closer links with Norway than what we have with Scotland. It is such a lack; I have always wondered why French is being taught in school here, when it should be Norwegian, going by our culture and history” he said.
The petition reads: “We, the undersigned, call on the Scottish Government to allow NorthLink to operate a summer sailing season to Norway as previously carried out by P&O.
“We believe this would help retain our social, historical and cultural links with Scandinavia, while promoting social inclusion and helping reopen business and tourism opportunities for our Islands.”
The petition can be found at: www.gopetition.com/petition/38144.html