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Transport / Councillor keen to see isles back in Norröna schedule

Norröna steaming by off Sumburgh on her way to Denmark. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

SHETLAND Islands Council is set to make contact with the operator of the Norröna ferry over the possibility of the boat stopping off in the isles again on routes connecting Denmark with Faroe and Iceland.

Environment and transport committee chairman councillor Ryan Thomson said he would “love” to see the link resume in his time as an elected member.

Shetland Islands Council, through the then Shetland Development Trust, invested over £4 million in the ferry in 2002, with the boat bringing a direct link with Scandinavia including Bergen.

But in 2007 Shetland was struck off the schedule, and the Norröna continuing to closely pass by the isles on its journeys has somewhat rubbed salt into the wounds.

The boat currently has two weekly departures from Denmark to Iceland the Faroe Islands.

Almost two years ago a fresh call was made for the Norröna to return to Shetland amid hopes that the ferry could link into an ‘arctic strategy’ being explored by the Scottish Government.

The issue has reared its head again, with Thomson saying that the SIC would “very much welcome an arctic strategy to be continued to be explored to strengthen our ties with our Faroese friends”.

Thomson said when the ferry stopped along Shetland a few times a week there was an annual boost to the local economy of around £6 million per year.

He said over the last few years the council has received a total of around £637,000 in returns in dividends from its share.

“Of course we need to present a case to [ferry operator] Smyril Line for it to be economically viable for the Norröna to return to Shetland, but I would love to see it in my time at the council, and we will be making contact with Smyril Line soon to have that discussion with them,” Thomson said.

He continued by claiming that Shetland looks on at Faroe with envy.

The islands, to the north west of Shetland, are self-governing with their own parliament.

Last month Shetland councillors voted to explore options for achieving financial and political self-determination, and Faroe has been cited by some as a possible future model.

“We look at what Faroe has in terms of governance, self-determination, autonomy and full fiscal and political self-determination and have achieved with that,” Thomson said.

“We look on enviously at their infrastructure, how they’ve rebuilt their economy.

“We struggle to keep wir young folk here in Shetland, but in Faroe all their youngsters are moving back there because of the investment into their infrastructure, their technology and connectivity.”

The Norröna, meanwhile, is due to enter dry dock in December for a refurbishment which will modernise the interior and add new cabins.