Review into island transport links including ferry replacement delayed

Ferry replacements and fixed links were due to be considered as part of the proposals.

Review into Shetland transport links including ferry replacements delayed iStock

Councillors have been left disappointed by delays to a report on inter-island connectivity.

Environment and transport committee chair Moraig Lyall said it was “regretful” that the report never came in front of elected members this week.

The scoping report was due to come before a meeting of the committee on Tuesday.

It was expected to shed more light on the possible next steps regarding the future of Shetland’s transport links to the islands, such as ferry replacements and the idea of fixed links.

It would set out the cost estimates of carrying out a business case process to support decision making on the range of projects needed to maintain transport links between the islands.

Explaining the absence of the report, infrastructure director John Smith said he still has to establish the “target” for the connectivity plan.

Lyall said she actually expected the report to come before the committee last month, “when it was indeed ready”.

“I was persuaded to delay it until this meeting to give time for a members’ seminar,” she explained. “That seminar took place two weeks ago and it was my expectation that it would be on the agenda today.

“I was somewhat taken aback when I received my agenda and that it was not on the agenda. I’m unclear as to where and who that decision was taken and by what process.”

Smith said an “underlying challenge” was the alignment of financial decision making processes with committee consideration, and the construction of reports that help members to meet those objectives together.

He said there is difficulty to “find the right balance”, adding that he would report back with more information.

Lyall said she believed it was for the committee to decide whether it was appropriate to consider the report at this moment in time.

Shetland Central member Catherine Hughson said she shared Lyall’s frustration that “this seems to have been taken out of the hands of members, to decide whether reports should be heard by the committee”.

She conceded that she was “at a loss” over the matter.

Alex Armitage, who represents Shetland South, said he was also disappointed.

“I think that it’s really important for democracy in Shetland that elected members are the people who decide about the decisions that affect us, and it would be good to get a bit more clarity about what gets on the agenda and how we go about this process,” he said.

The Green councillor felt on a climate and financial level running inter-island ferries on certain routes was not the best way forward in the long-term.

“We can’t really afford not to be moving forward with fixed links as fast as we possibly can,” he said.

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