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Skerries folk set to get their air service back

An Islander plane touching down in Skerries.

EFFORTS to re-introduce an air service to Skerries are being stepped up after Shetland Islands Council was handed a list with eight local volunteers willing to be trained as airstrip fire fighters.

Shetland Islands Council head of transport planning Michael Craigie confirmed his department was working on providing the correct training for the volunteers to allow the air service to resume as quickly as possible.

The people of Skerries lost their air link to Tingwall just over a year ago in the wake of the loss of the island’s salmon industry, which had provided six jobs.

After young families moved away from Skerries to find employment, not enough volunteers could be found to provide fire cover.

Back in the summer, Skerries Primary School was mothballed after the last remaining pupil moved to a different school – just two years after the community finally lost a decade-long battle to keep the smallest secondary department in Scotland open.

Skerries Airstrip Trust secretary Alice Arthur said that since the secondary school and the salmon farm had closed, Skerries’ population had halved to just 35 or so.

However, those who remain continue to be forward-looking, Arthur said, and have now pulled together in an effort to get the air service back.

“The possible re-introduction of the air service would be massively important for the island. We need all the pieces of the puzzle, and the plane was a major part, just like the ferry, the school and the salmon farm,” she said.

“The plane service would help with visitors and could attract tourists. It would help islanders with another way of getting on and off the island.

“However, while getting the plane back would be great, having the ferry back to be based here on the island would be even more important.”

Craigie said the council was committed to supporting its small island communities and he was looking into a more reliable training regime in place for all fire volunteers on remote island airstrips.

“I can’t give a timeframe for this, but we are working as quickly as we practicably can,” he said.

Craigie added: “We want to put something in place that is reliable and provides a long-term solution.”

General Election - 12 December 2019