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Transport / ‘The ferries are becoming unviable’: Yell development group director keen on tunnels

North Yell Development Council's Andrew Nisbet. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

A DIRECTOR of an island development group says the “sooner we can get tunnels the better”.

North Yell Development Council’s Andrew Nisbet believes there is a high level of support for the idea of fixed links in the area.

His comments come ahead of an online discussion event next weekend designed to gauge the level of interest in fixed links in Shetland and talk about the practicalities of tunnels.

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Fixed links like tunnels for islands such as Yell, Unst and Whalsay have stepped up the political agenda in recent years.

There is periodic disruption on Shetland’s ageing inter-island ferries, both through maintenance and the weather, and the vessels are big carbon emitters in a time when Scotland is looking to go net zero by 2045.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon told Shetland News last year that there was a “strong case” for fixed links in the isles and added that she was “quite enthusiastic” about seeing a case made for tunnels.

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But the stumbling block for fixed links is the high cost.

Nisbet said the North Yell development group, which has 69 members, is thinking of carrying out some form of consultation to gauge interest in the area.

“My personal view on tunnels is that the sooner we can get them the better, because the ferries are becoming unviable,” he said.

The development council director said that, in his view, fixed links would help stop depopulation in Yell.

“Depopulation is the big problem here,” Nisbet added.

“It would make it easier to live here and would allow people to come and go as they want.”

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He described depopulation in the north isle as a “slow decline”.

“The school numbers are a bit worrying, they’re down a bit at the moment,” Nisbet explained.

“We could do with more families. I think to retain the youngsters too we need to diversify and have at least some jobs for graduates.

“At the moment there’s plenty of jobs, but they tend to be mostly in the salmon industry. That maybe doesn’t suit everybody, so if we could give a wider range of jobs that would help.”

Meanwhile the Tunnel Vision online discussion event on fixed links is due to take place next Saturday (5 February).

It is being hosted by Shetland’s political representatives Alistair Carmichael and Beatrice Wishart.

Invitations have been sent to islanders and council representatives.

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