Transport / Tunnel Vision events show fixed links ‘command public support’, MP says

Meanwhile Alistair Carmichael is due to meet the UK Government’s Levelling Up secretary today – with fixed links on the agenda

THERE is a “real determination” in island communities to get things moving on tunnels.

That is the view of Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, speaking in the middle of a series of public events in some of Shetland’s islands to discuss fixed links hosted by the politician and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

Roughly 100 people in total turned out to events in Unst and Yell earlier this week, and there were about 15 in Fetlar.

But Carmichael acknowledged that “taking along isn’t going to cut it”.

He is scheduled to meet with the UK Levelling Up secretary Greg Clark in Orkney today (Friday) – and fixed links, as well as the Fair Isle ferry, will be on the agenda.

A second Shetland Islands Council bid is already in for the government’s Levelling Up fund for a replacement Fair Isle ferry, and there are suggestions it could be an avenue for fixed links too.


Carmichael said he was “really pleased” with how the Tunnel Vision events had gone so far, with further sessions planned for Skerries, Whalsay and Bressay in the coming days.

“It’s not just the fact that people have been prepared to turn out – it’s been the quality of the engagement, the thoughtfulness of the contributions and the real determination to get this moving,” he said.

The Liberal Democrat MP said the “overwhelming majority” of people who have contributed to the meetings so far have said that they are in favour of replacing ferries with fixed links.

“That sits fairly consistently with what we had both in the online event and in the response we’ve had from mailings since that,” he said.

“I think you’ve got enough sampling now to say that consistently this is something which commands public support. It’s not universal, it will never be universal, but we’ve got a pretty good broad consensus.”

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Wishart meanwhile said the message “we have heard loud and clear is ‘get on with it!’”

“In the meantime we must adopt a twin track approach,” she added.

“While making the case for what comes next in Shetland’s transport evolution, the ferry service cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further.

“We will round off the roadshow in Whalsay and Bressay tomorrow, and will be in Skerries today.”

Unst and Yell are seen as the frontrunners for any fixed link, but they would come with a high capital cost.

Carmichael also suggested the UK Government could offer advice on business cases for fixed links.

While transport is a devolved matter, the Scottish Government have previously said inter-island ferries is a responsibility for the council.

“It’s pretty clear that Transport Scotland have zero interest in helping us out here as things stand, so I think in these circumstances you do have to think of looking to treasury and the levelling up money in Whitehall,” Carmichael said.

Meanwhile councillors are due to attend a seminar on inter-island transport later today.

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