Transport / Tunnel fundraiser shows communities are treating fixed links ‘seriously’, council leader says

From left to right: Yell Tunnel Action Group's Steven Henderson, Andrew Nisbet, North Yell Development Council, and Alec Priest of the Unst Tunnel Action Group.

A NEW fundraising campaign for initial investigations into tunnels to Yell and Unst demonstrates how people see fixed links as the future, according to Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald.

She said it also shows communities are taking the idea of fixed links seriously.

On Wednesday a funding campaign was jointly launched by the Yell and Unst tunnel action groups, which are grassroots organisations instigated by the community.

A total of £100,000 has already been pledged by Unst’s SaxaVord Spaceport and the North Yell Development Council.

An initial fundraising target of £250,000 would cover geo-technical investigations, as well as the socio-economic and environmental impact work.

The public are now being asked to dig deep into their pockets to help out, with more than £3,000 already raised online – while news of the campaign has reached the national media.

The groups say they are on a “mission to transform the transportation landscape, foster inclusivity, and drive sustainable development” by connecting Unst and Yell to the Shetland mainland.


Their campaign, “driven by the spirit of community”, highlights that replacing ferries with tunnels would “breathe new life” into the North Isles.

At the moment traffic to Yell and Unst is “significantly hindered by restrictions due to ferry timetabling and suspension”, the groups said.

SIC leader Macdonald said it was “fantastic” to see the community get behind the idea of fixed links.

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald. Photo: Shetland News

The council itself is supportive of fixed links and recently approved the creation of a wide overview of its entire transport network, including possible tunnels, which will result in business cases.

If the Yell and Unst investigations go ahead then the council will be able to access the results.

“I think it’s really easy for the council to say we are fully supportive of short tunnel crossings but this shows that it’s much wider than the council,” Macdonald said.

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“It really helps when we have engagement with government to be able to evidence the support from the community with the tunnel action groups being so proactive.”

North Yell Development Council director Andrew Nisbet said consultation undertaken by the group for its recent development plan shows that tunnels are a “high priority” for the community.

“We are therefore keen to support the tunnel action groups in every way including making a financial contribution to their funding effort,” he added.

“We hope that the funding target can be met allowing the various studies to be carried out and adding momentum to the island communities campaign for tunnels.”

It has often been regarded that the construction of the SaxaVord Spaceport in Unst, which will be of national importance, strengthens the case for fixed links in the North Isles.

Spaceport and North Yell Development Council pledge £50k each to tunnel project

Yell is also an important hub for fishing and aquaculture.

Potential fixed links for Whalsay and Bressay will also be explored in the SIC’s inter-island transport strategy, which is only due to be concluded in 2024.

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