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Community / First minister gives commitment to review telecommunications resilience

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said islanders need ‘guaranteed connectivity and reliability’

The SHEFA-2 cable network. Image: TeleGeography

FIRST minister Nicola Sturgeon has given a commitment that the Scottish Government will review island telecommunications resilience after last week’s disruption in Shetland.

The matter was raised in parliament by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, who said “we need guaranteed connectivity and reliability”.

Sturgeon said the disruption, which saw many in Shetland left without internet or phone connectivity, was of “profound concern” to islanders.

It happened after a fault east of Shetland on the SHEFA-2 subsea telecoms cable which runs to Orkney.

Services were restored to most people by teatime on Thursday following a temporary fix, while a cable ship is currently on site to carry out a full repair.

Wishart said she wanted to extend “grateful thanks” to the emergency services and engineers.

Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart.

But the Lib Dem said “all this points to the fundamental vulnerability of island communications infrastructure, something I and many others highlighted during the now-junked proposals for centralised air traffic control”.

“We need guaranteed connectivity and reliability. Will the Scottish Government agree to reviewing what happened to ensure these vital communication connections, that most people take for granted, are resilient?”

Sturgeon said the government had been engaged in the efforts to reconnect Shetland, and she also gave thanks to the dedication of those involved.

In terms of “wider resilience” she gave a commitment that things will be looked into.

“We will review all of that in light of this incident and consider what other steps may be required,” she said.

Meanwhile Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael also raised the issue in the House of Commons.

He called for ministers to bring together political and business stakeholders urgently to discuss the resilience of telecommunications infrastructure in UK waters.

The MP also said the incident made it “surely apparent that the system does not have the resilience that it needs”.

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Responding for the government, Cabinet Office minister Brendan Clarke-Smith MP said: “I’m glad the situation has been resolved.

“As I said regarding the Islands Forum this government is committed to making sure that island communities are fully represented and I am more than happy to continue these meetings – and I am certainly happy to meet any stakeholders to discuss how we can improve the situation.”

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