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Letters / Squandered opportunity

It was good to see the SIC welcoming the ambassadors from our Nordic neighbours on their flying visit this week.

Nordic neighbours explore Shetland connection as ambassadors visit isles

Strengthening ties with those closest to us is very important now that the EU has shown so much hostility to the British people after Brexit.

It is a shame though, that the SIC did not show a more friendly attitude to the Norwegian company Nergard, when they proposed to build two fish factories in the Whalsay harbour a few years ago.

Their proposal was apparently dismissed due to flawed information, presented in a report by the SIC director of development Neil Grant; with his cost estimate of £20 to £40 million, for a harbour extension that was required for the project to advance.

The SIC had estimated the cost of a similar sized pier, proposed as a ferry terminal a year or two earlier, for £15.5 million. All of the ferry terminal options we had proposed were rejected by the SIC ferries department; however, I found it strange that it would cost between £4.5 million to £24.5 million more if they did not build ferry terminal infrastructure into the project.

Mr Grant wrote in an email that his cost estimate came from a conversation between himself and individuals from SIC ports and harbours, based on harbour development costs elsewhere.

Mair’s Quay in Lerwick which was reaching completion at that time, for a cost of around £16.8 million; must have escaped their attention, it was nearly twice the size of what was proposed in Whalsay.

Mr Grant also appeared to forget to mention in his report, that being a fisheries pier, the pier construction would have qualified for an EU grant of from 40 per cent to 80 per cent of the construction costs from the European fisheries fund.

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The dismissal of this proposal not only squandered the opportunity to enhance the presently inadequate home port of the largest fleet of fishing vessels in Shetland, but it also prevented the SIC the opportunity of earning an estimated £1 to £2 million per annum from landing dues, from the proposed fish factories had they been built.

This would have provided much needed employment in the local community, after suffering the loss of jobs when the previous Whalsay fish factory closed a few years earlier.

Perhaps after forging closer ties with our Nordic neighbours, the SIC may also not be so dismissive of the offer of a Norwegian Government loan, sourced by the Whalsay community, for the construction of Whalsay tunnel.

The Norwegian company Tunnel and Geoconsult, who were invited into the council chamber to present information on tunnel construction only a few years ago, were still standing by their 2016/17 quote of £76 million for the Whalsay tunnel when I was in contact with them recently.

William Polson
North Park

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