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Transport / First minister says fixed links are a ‘legitimate question’

Eysturoyartunnilin, Faroe's tunnel with a roundabout. Photo: Ólavur Frederiksen

FIRST minister Humza Yousaf has reiterated that the government is “up for discussion” on fixed links between Scottish islands.

But he told The National that the Scottish Government’s capital budget is “really constrained” at the moment.

The SNP MSP – a former transport and islands minister – added that the government is putting a lot of capital infrastructure into building new ferries for the Western Isles by 2026.

When he was on the first minister campaign trail last year Yousaf told Shetland News that he would be “up for a discussion around fixed links” for the isles.

Yousaf up for tunnel talks if he becomes first minister

Speaking recently he told The National: “We’ve always been open as a government to fixed links.

“It’s a legitimate question, but we‘re discussing this at a time when the UK Government has now cut our capital budget by £1.3 billion.”

Yousaf also highlighted the success Faroe has had for instance in constructing tunnels.

This capital squeeze has also prompted the Scottish Government to pause future NHS construction projects.

Work is set to get underway soon on Shetland Islands Council’s inter-island transport strategy which will explore potential tunnels as long-term replacements on the busiest ferry routes.

There is also fundraising ongoing in Shetland’s North Isles for community tunnel groups to commission their own surveys for possible fixed links.

Tunnel groups in Yell, Unst and Whalsay last week released a joint statement welcoming progress on the council’s inter-island transport study after consultants Stantec were announced as the preferred bidder for the job.

Alice Mathewson, chair of Unst Tunnel Action Group, said: “We trust that Stantec UK Ltd will recognise the increasing urgency to introduce tunnels to our islands.

“This is about so much more than providing transport links: it opens up the potential to revolutionise social and economic opportunity not only within these communities, but for Shetland as a whole.

“It is encouraging that Shetland Islands Council’s director of development, Neil Grant, is open to taking a fresh look at what’s possible, including looking at options that may be unprecedented in the UK.

“We very much hope that Stantec’s findings underpin this.”

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