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Transport / Government minister invited to Fair Isle to explain ferry replacement delay

SNP councillor Robbie McGregor says he has held talks with government officials on the matter

Fair Isle ferry the Good Shepherd, which is 31 years old and will soon need replacing.Fair Isle ferry the Good Shepherd.

A CALL has been made for a government minister to visit Fair Isle to explain why funding for a replacement ferry for the island has not yet been approved.

Councillor Allison Duncan said the relevant Scottish Government minister should visit the remote island as soon as restrictions ease.

The council has drawn up plans for a replacement for the 34-year-old vessel, which has not been able to take passengers during the pandemic due to its size and regulations, and the case is said to be sitting on the government’s desk in Holyrood.

Council leader Steven Coutts backed the idea of inviting a minister to Fair Isle, as did South Mainland member George Smith.

Coutts did note though that the government has been busy with the Covid-19 pandemic

But SNP councillor Robbie McGregor, who also represents the South Mainland, said he has been “working quietly in the background” on the subject alongside Highlands and Islands MSP Maree Todd and SNP election candidate Tom Wills.

McGregor said they have spoken to islands minister Paul Wheelhouse and finance chief Kate Forbes to “ensure the government understands the importance this impasse is having”.

He said a formal meeting with Wheelhouse has been requested and agreed to, adding that he “fully agreed” that a minister should visit Fair Isle in person.

Environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson said he had unsuccessfully asked twice this year for government ministers to visit Shetland to explain their stance on full and fair ferry funding.

“I can only hope this will be third time lucky,” he said.