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Need for Jarlshof car park raised in parliament as visitor numbers boom

THE BOOMING cruise liner business has led to discussions over the provision of facilities at one of Shetland’s leading tourist attractions, where visitors have to park at a neighbouring hotel and hop in to use its toilet.

A meeting is set to take place between Historic Environment Scotland (HES), which owns the ancient site of Jarlshof in Sumburgh, and the owner of Sumburgh Hotel Mark Donaldson – as well as Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and other parties – next month over plans to develop the site.

Scott raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament today (Wednesday) and said that HES has been dragging its feet on discussions which have been rumbling on for years.

Donaldson said that the cruise ship trade had expanded massively, meaning the hotel car park could be swamped with buses.

But at the same time spending by tourists in the hotel was falling because “everything was being pared right back”, he said.

According to Donaldson developing ground owned by the hotel was one of a number of options that could be looked at to enhance the site, which has been occupied by humans for thousands of years.

He said: “I have been working very closely with them over the years. Something has to be done to tackle the increase in buses.

“This is the third most popular tourist attraction in Shetland and probably number one for accessibility for the cruise ship market.”

Scott, who says he has pressed both the Scottish Government and HES to find a solution since 2016, was assured at Holyrood Questions today that progress can be made on the issue ahead of the next cruise ship season.

He said that he was previously given assurances that investment would happen to improve the situation, but the 2018 visitor season has passed without any action. In 2018, 91 cruise ships arrived, carrying over 90,000 passengers. For 2019, 115 ships are scheduled.

Scott said: “The lack of adequate facilities at a world class heritage site is unacceptable. Bus parking and access to a toilet are basic requirements.

“HES exists to promote Scotland’s historical environment but are failing to that by stalling on this issue.”