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Letters / Building tunnels to reduce carbon emissions

THE Climate Change (Scotland) act 2009 set a Scottish target of a 42 per cent reduction of greenhouse gasses by 2020 and the Shetland Islands Council’s Carbon Management Plan 2015 ‐2020 states that the Shetland Islands Council also aims to reduce carbon emissions by 42 per cent by 2020.

The importance of the Scottish Government and the SIC’s apparent commitment to reducing Scotland’s carbon footprint in line with the Paris climate change agreement should not be ignored nor forgotten.

Why then is the proposal to build tunnels to Whalsay and Yell continually being dismissed by the SIC and Scottish Government?

Both local and national governments have been presented with evidence, verified from their own documents, that shows that building tunnels to Whalsay and Yell, could cut the SIC overall production of carbon by around 30 per cent and also reduce the running cost of the two transport links by around 90 per cent.

Their own figures also show that the Norwegian tunnel quote for the Whalsay route is still the cheapest transport option, by an extensive margin when compared to the following estimated combined construction and running costs over 60 years; a tunnel £106 million versus a ferry service £458.2 million.

These figures were calculated using data sourced from their own documents, if we include the Yell sound figures, the ferry service options on the two routes are estimated to be £663.2 million more expensive than the fixed link options for the next 60 years.

Can it be that if the tunnels are built, the SIC are concerned they would lose the figure the SIC charges for berthing on the two routes; the combined figure was £2,338,357 in 2015/16, these charges they say are required for the maintenance of SIC piers and harbours?

However, it has been noted locally that harbour maintenance appears to have been kept to a minimum in the SIC owned Whalsay harbour and many other SIC piers over the last few decades.

As the SIC presently do not receive full funding for the ferries running costs, with an apparent shortfall of a figure of roughly £3 million, which is a similar amount to the 2015/16, £3.1 million bill issued for ferries berthing charges mentioned in the SIITS report.

Who then is presently responsible for paying those additional costs, can it be that they are being paid by the SIC; from the Ferries account, to the SIC Ports and Harbours account; thus apparently creating a profit for the SIC, to then be used for harbour maintenance; or to be transferred to the reserve fund?

How can the continued construction of new ferry services possibly be considered Best Value or environmentally friendly by the SIC in comparison to the construction of fixed links?

As these are my personal observations, this letter has not been shared with other members of the Whalsay Community Council.

William Polson

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021