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Norway ferry petition handed in

MORE than 1,000 people have signed a petition to allow ferry operator NorthLink to run a service between Shetland and Norway during the summer.

Whiteness man Graham Irvine launched the petition just over a week ago and handed it in to the Scottish government who were running their ferries review road show in the isles this week.

Mr Irvine said that he wanted to show officials the depth of cultural links between Shetland and Scandinavia, pointing to the wide range of clubs and friendly societies with links across the North Sea.

As well as the Shetland Vagsoy twinning association, the Shetland Norwegian friendship society, the Shetland race committee, the Shetland Bus friendship society, Lerwick Spurs football club and other sporting organisations, he said the museum and local businesses would benefit from a transport connection.

“Renewing historical links and completing the transport circuit will make a more appealing option for tourism, allowing people to sail from the UK up to the islands, over to Scandinavia and return through Europe,” he said.

The Scottish government is looking for ways to cut the NorthLink operating budget by £1 million as part of its overall budget savings, with suggestions such as running on half power or cutting back on sailings to Aberdeen.

Mr Irvine said: “Instead of just looking to cut costs why not make more money by helping provide a much requested service?

“NorthLink have already proven they are capable of sailing to Norway when the Hamnavoe sailed to pick up people stranded by the Icelandic ash cloud.

“The benefits to our islands would be many including social, cultural, educational, business opportunities, leisure and tourism all of which are stated in the review as aims of the Scottish government.

“In 1886 Betty Mouat drifted from Shetland to Norway in nine days. Today to take a vehicle to Bergen takes at least 56 hours of continual travel instead of the 12 hours it could take.”