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Climate change research

January's Storm Gertrude, shown here hitting Ulsta, was used as an example of Scotland's violent weather. Photo: Robert OdieYell Sound ferry services have been suspended.

PLANNING for the effects of climate change needs to be individually tailored for Scottish island communities like Shetland, according to new research.

Fiona Cunningham’s study for the University of St Andrews, which was presented at the Royal Geographical Society’s annual conference in London on Wednesday, will be made available to Shetland Islands Council to help better inform planning in the future.

The researcher used Unst as one of three case studies to explore whether decision-makers need to concentrate more on local priorities when considering climate change adaptation planning instead of using a “one size fits all” approach.

Cunningham traveled to Unst during her research and spoke to locals to get a feel for how climate change affects the community, with “severe gales” the main issue.

She said this has a knock-on effect on communication, travel and employment, meaning that regions like Unst would benefit from more robust emergency planning.

“The problems that stem from severe gales are to do with communication during and after these extreme winds, so things like the internet and phone lines being down, and power cuts,” Cunningham said.

“Another aspect is that ferry transport is disrupted, and that was a priority mentioned by the community.”

Cunningham used January’s Storm Gertrude, which saw winds of 100mph hit Shetland, as example of the types of weather climate change is bringing to Scotland more frequently.

Her study concluded that existing climate change adaption planning doesn’t currently reflect the needs of Scotland’s island communities.

In addition to Unst, Cunningham visited Westray in Orkney and South Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

“My research is saying there can’t be one plan for all of the islands,” she said.

“It has to be local councils looking into islands and their priorities specifically, rather than coming through central government.”