Council / Council confident ‘challenging’ Fair Isle ferry project can be delivered

The Fair Isle ferry Good Shepherd at Grutness. Photo: Ronnie Robertson

THE chief executive of Shetland Islands Council has expressed her confidence that the Fair Isle ferry project will be delivered on time and within budget.

In a move to reassure the Fair Isle community of the council’s and the UK Government’s commitment, Maggie Sandison also acknowledged the challenges of the particularly complex project.

Her comments came after Shetland North councillor Tom Morton warned that the project “could all go horribly wrong” and predicted higher than budgeted cost with little chance to complete the project in the tight timescale of about three years.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Speaking to Shetland News this week, Sandison said she and the project team were well aware of the challenges of delivering a new ferry plus two new terminals by March 2026.

“It is a challenging project, but we are aware of the risks,” she said. “We are trying to manage the risks and maintain control of the things we can control in order to deliver because it is such an important project for Shetland and for Fair Isle – and I don’t want to see us not be able to deliver on it.”


In January, following an unsuccessful bid in 2021, the UK Government committed around £27 million of Levelling Up funding towards replacing the current ferry Good Shepherd IVand building terminal infrastructure at Grutness and in Fair Isle.

A final investment decision by the department for transport and the SIC is due to be made before the end of the year once all cost are known.

By that time just two years and three months remain to complete the project.

Sandison conceded that the “clock is ticking” but remained confident it can be done.

“The outcome for the community is so significant that not doing it isn’t an option,” she said, and added: “I am confident that we are managing the risks the best that we can.

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“We have a clear understanding of the risks and how we mitigate those risks. The commitment to deliver and make it work for Fair Isle is strong, both from me and the UK Government.”

And Sandison confirmed that there was unlikely to be any flexibility in the delivery deadline of March 2026 but added that the UK Government was as keen as the council to see the project succeed.

“There is an expectation that we regularly update the department of transport that is working with us on this project and maintain regular contact about any issues that arise (…) and that communication will continue,” she said.

See also:

‘It could all go horribly wrong’

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