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Connectivity / Telecoms blackout caused by fishing boat, government confirms

Carmichael snubbed when not invited to ‘Shetland incident’ debrief

Repair work on the damaged Shefa-2 cable was carried out at the end of October off Shetland by the cable repair ship Cable Vigilance. Photo: Ronnie Robertson.

LAST month’s communications blackout was caused by a “fishing trawler” rather than a Russian submarine or any other alleged sabotage by the Putin regime, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

In a letter to Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, seen by Shetland News, it also emerged that the department for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) held a debrief on the ‘Shetland incident’ on 9 November without the knowledge of isles MP Alistair Carmichael.

A major incident was declared by police early on 20 October when almost all broadband and mobile phone services were lost after Shetland’s “primary” telecommunications cable was“hit by a fishing trawler”.

Initially it was feared the blackout could last for three days but temporary repairs resulted in most services being restored the same day.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.

And despite assurances from secretary of state Michelle Donelan that Carmichael would be kept fully updated on the incident, he was not invited to participate in the debriefing earlier this month.

Finding out about the meeting when contacted by Shetland News on Tuesday, the Orkney and Shetland MP said: “It beggars belief that, given everything they said in the past, the this ‘debrief’ involved only two governments and commercial interests.

“I shall be demanding of the secretary of state why she allowed a meeting like this to go ahead with no-one there to speak for the community.”

Wishart has meanwhile joined the fishing industry in calling for dedicated cable corridors for both communication and power infrastructure.

MSP backs calls for seabed cable corridors

In his letter to the Shetland MSP, the minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise Ivan McKee also said that the Scottish Government was already investing millions to improve resilience for island communities.

“The Scottish Government also recognises the vital importance of mobile connectivity for rural, remote and island communities and businesses,” he wrote.

“Through our Scottish 4G Infill Programme, we are investing £28.75 million in future-proofed infrastructure to improve access to 4G services for some of Scotland’s rural and island communities.”

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