Isles representatives Alistair Carmichael MP and Beatrice Wishart MSP have this week launched a new round of “Tunnel Vision” events across Shetland to build political momentum for fixed links. People across the isles have been invited to a series of events to discuss how the proposals for tunnels connecting island communities can be driven forward with the Scottish and UK governments. Letters inviting islanders have been sent earlier in the week and the first attendees have already responded.
The event launch comes as Scotland Office minister Ian Stewart returns from a fact-finding mission to the Faroes where he witnessed the transformational impact of fixed links on Faroese communities, and indicated interest in supporting action on fixed links in the Northern Isles.
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said:
“Fixed links for the isles are more than just a pipe dream – they are an essential part of the discussion on how we safeguard the future of our island communities. What has happened in the Faroes is a clear indication of the transformational potential of these connections.
“This is about more than just reducing our reliance on ferry infrastructure or indeed any other short term considerations – by linking up our communities we can make the isles more attractive for local people and newcomers alike, improving our economy and our services for decades to come.
“That is why we are working to generate a community consensus on how we move forward with fixed links. The first round of discussions made it clear that there is interest in moving forward but we need to make a plan of action as a community. That is why we will be holding ‘TunnelVision’ events through the summer to build political momentum and ensure that islanders themselves are the ones driving this forward.
“What we will need in turn from our governments is some respect for the strength of feeling in the isles, and a recognition that short-term thinking will not cut it. If we continue with the same old transport solutions then we will simply be paying over and over while facing the same old problems. Fixed links will require serious political capital now, but the long-term benefits for island communities could be enormous.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said:
“I am pleased that our event earlier in the year has sparked a sustained conversation in the community. We are keen to keep that momentum going and see progress.
“Tunnels could have significant benefits to local communities and businesses. But there are no one-size-fits-all solutions and consideration to local residents must be at the heart of this process.
“It is important that communities’ views are heard during this process and I look forward to our summer meetings to discuss the issues directly with residents. Community led Tunnel Action Groups, which we hope to help establish, will help develop the conversation.
“I will be meeting with the Transport Minister later this month and among other transport issues facing islanders I will raise fixed links. We need commitment to feasibility studies in principle, just as governments would for other national projects on the Mainland.”