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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Letters / Now’s the time for tunnels

I am gratified that Michael Craigie, SIC’s transport planning manager, has confirmed that the council is committed to tunnels, albeit as a “longer term aim” (SIC’s committed to tunnels; SN 27/7/12).

Though as they first got a quote of £22 million for the Yell tunnel in 2002, before going instead for what turned out to be a far more expensive ferry, the term seems fairly long already. 

I am more gratified that, in such a public forum, Mr Craigie made no dispute of the costings I have previously put forth that if tunnels can be cut at similar costs to the Norwegian ones, the total cost of road linking all the main islands would be about £80 million – a quarter of the long term cost of a couple of ferries.

That is the long term cost including ongoing subsidies, which is why it would be better to go for the long term solution of tunnels even if building ferries was to be cheaper in the short term (which they aren’t).

I did suggest the possibility that Holyrood might not support tunnels because it would make them spending £2,600 million on a Forth bridge look unwise and Mr Craigie’s comment about having to find funding for tunnels but apparently not for ferries, suggests this may be so.

If so now might be the time to make the case. With the independence referendum coming up and oil a major part of the case the Holyrood government would not wish the majority of people in the islands closest to the oil to vote to remain in the UK.

Even if no central funding were available the money in the Shetland trust might well be better spent in solid infrastructure, built at competitive rates, which would both enhance the local economy and end the considerable drain of ferry subsidies.

I look forward to finding decisions made at the council meeting in September.

In response to James MacKenzie’s response – he seems to have conceded he was wrong to worry about the cost and shifted his ground to the possible loss of subsidy dependent ferry jobs (For the record; SN 25/7/12).

If these tunnels enhanced the whole economy there would be a significant overall increase in jobs. A recent report by Verso Economics showed that paying for subsidy dependent jobs in the renewable industry destroyed 3.7 jobs for every one gained and the same principle applies, though possibly not in the same ratio, to any such jobs.

I cannot agree with his characterisation of the wealth and income inequality of Norway as being responsible for the recent massacre, partly because income inequality, which is not the same as everybody being well off, is not a feature of Norway or any Scandinavian country, and partly because using that massacre in that way seems to be in dubious taste.

Neil Craig
200 Woodlands Rd

General Election - 12 December 2019