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Transport / Government needs to show ambition around fixed links, Wishart says

Councillor Thomson adds that fixed links could bring economic and environmental benefits

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media

SHETLAND MSP Beatrice Wishart has called on the Scottish Government to follow Faroe’s lead and invest in fixed links for the isles.

She said the government “needs to have the same ambitions” for Shetland.

Her comments come as a 11km undersea tunnel, complete with a roundabout, is due to open in Faroe soon.

It is the latest tunnel to be installed in the Faroe Islands, while more are proposed too.

Calls have regularly been made for fixed links, like tunnels, to be installed in Shetland, such as between Unst and Yell or the mainland to Whalsay.

Shetland Islands Council is broadly supportive of fixed links but their high costs are prohibitive.

Wishart raised the matter in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, asking islands minister Paul Wheelhouse about the government’s intentions.

Scottish islands and connectivity minister Paul Wheelhouse.

She said fixed links are the “long-term” transport connectivity solution instead of ferries.

Wheelhouse replied: “I’d just refer the member about the fact that we’re developing the successor to the ferries plan, which is the islands connectivity plan.

“It will go wider than looking at purely ferries, it will look at issues around aviation and fixed links where that is sensible to do so.”

He encouraged Wishart, as well as Shetland Islands Council, to engage in the development of the plan.

Following criticism from the MSP over the failure to meet Shetland’s full request for fair inter-island ferry funding, Wheelhouse said the government continues to engage with the council about the “sustainability of its internal ferry service”.

He highlighted the extra money that has been given to the council for running its ageing ferries over the last three years, which has amounted to over £15 million.

Responding to Wheelhouse’s comments, chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said: I welcome the minister’s comments that the Shetland Islands Council, and ZetTrans will be engaged when it comes to our local input into the forthcoming islands connectivity plan.

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“The immediate priority for the Shetland Islands Council is to work with the government to make sure full and fair funding is provided to continue providing Shetland with its current lifeline service.

“However there is no question that fixed links must be considered now for the medium term.

“The new Cullivoe road will go one step further to securing a fixed link across Bluemull Sound, and we will continue to work with the government to show the real benefits, both economically and environmentally, that fixed links can achieve for Shetland, and for Scotland.”

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