Shetlanders are asked by their MP and MSP to participate in a consultation on 5 February in regard to fixed links, and I encourage them to do so. My opinions need no further elucidation as they have already been aired in the local press, but I add one more in support.
The maternity (and medical) cover in Moray and Caithness has been arbitrarily concentrated in Inverness by the Scottish NHS/Government to the dismay, concern, consternation and disadvantage of populations in those areas.
In many cases patients travel over a hundred Highland miles to reach Raigmore Hospital. That is no easy task but becomes doubly difficult in an emergency and indeed horrendous in the winter having to contend with gales, snow and ice.
They also have to cope with the vagaries of a stretched ambulance service. People from Wick and Elgin quite rightly want service restored to their own hospitals and are supported in this by the overloaded hospital staff in Inverness.
It is obvious that patients from Shetland’s outer areas travelling to Lerwick hospital suffer the same uncertainty and difficulties experienced by Moray and Highland residents and in addition have to contend with travel via ferries (which are ageing rapidly and need constant update and repair) which might not be available during the nighttime, and furthermore, could be weather bound. An expensive helicopter is not the answer as it might be grounded or unavailable for one reason or another.
The answer to it all is the urgent need for fixed links to allow unimpeded travel from Unst spaceport to Lerwick and the same for folks from Yell, Fetlar, Whalsay, Bressay, as engineer professor Andrew Sloan from Strathclyde University will no doubt testify.
There are many other reasons why fixed links can be justified which can be provided by participants in the consultation process and everyone should also look forward to the burgeoning commercial and industrial opportunities becoming available in the future which will fully endorse fixed links as the way forward.
This has already been proven to be a great success in the Faroese archipelago nearby, as their transport director Sigurd Lamhauge will no doubt confirm.
Last week the Scottish Government announced the results of a transportation survey which included fixed links proposals to Hebridean islands but Shetland’s internal needs are completely ignored – a complete and utter contempt of Shetland’s requirements.
However it is fortuitous that the MP and MSP are now conducting their own investigation. From it Shetlanders will likely confirm that fixed links are the way forward and it will be opportune for them to return contempt to Holyrood and opt to deal directly with Westminster who hold the purse strings anyway.
Finally remember the needs of Foula, Skerries, Papa Stour and Fair Isle.
I take the opportunity to copy this email to Mr Carmichael, Ms Wishart and SIC as a contribution to the consultation. Fixed links now.