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Community / Fair Isle ferry funding bid unsuccessful – but council told to try again

A £25 million bid to the UK Government’s £4.8bn Levelling Up fund for a replacement Fair Isle ferry and harbour improvements has been unsuccessful, Shetland Islands Council has been told today (Friday).

However, chief executive Maggie Sandison said the council has been encouraged to continue its discussions with the government with a view to re-applying to the infrastructure element of the fund.

The Fair Isle ferry Good Shepherd IV. Photo: SIC

As part of his budget delivery on Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that a number of Scottish projects that had been successful in securing funds in the first round of allocations. The Fair Isle ferry project was not part of that list.

Sandison said that while she was disappointed that the funding bid had not been successful on this occasion, she was encouraged by the response she received from government officials on Friday.

She said she had been assured that the SIC’s funding bid had been a strong one, and there was also a recognition on behalf of the government that it was harder for smaller communities to be successful in applying to the Levelling Up fund.

“I am disappointed we have not been successful in this first round, but very keen to get the feedback that we have been offered and take up the opportunity for help and advice on how we improve the chance of success in future funding bids,” she told Shetland News.

Replacing the ferry Good Shepherd IV has been on the agenda for many years. Attempts to convince the Scottish Government to commit to fund the works has so far been unsuccessful.

As such councillors were in full support this summer to submit a bid to this new UK Government fund.

Fair Isle community councillor Fiona Mitchell said that naturally she and fellow islanders were disappointed by the news but had to remain optimistic that funding would come forward at some time in the future.

“We know that a lot of work has been done by the council and in particular by [head of transport] Michael Craigie. It was a good quality bid, and we have to hope that sometime along the line we get the money for a new ferry, something that is absolutely needed.”

Fair Isle, half way between Orkney and Shetland and one of the UK’s remotest communities, has a permanent population of under 60 people, and is served by the 35-year-old ferry Good Shepherd IV which takes around three hours to travel between the island and Grutness pier in the south mainland.