18th September 2018
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Flight plans offer new hope for Skerries

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Signs of renewed hope are emerging in Skerries with plans to have air services to and from the remote island reinstated.

The community was left to rely solely on the inter-island ferry for connections with the Mainland after air operator Direct Flight brought flights to a halt.

Services had to be suspended in 2014 following doubts about insurance relating to concerns the island did not have enough fire cover.

Direct Flight removed Skerries from its winter time-table last December.

It came after the island suffered major set-backs in recent years, with the loss of its salmon farming business and a decision by Shetland Islands Council to close the island’s very small secondary department.

But resident Alice Arthur said the numbers were now getting up to speed, following interest from men who have arrived in Skerries in recent months.

One of them is Steve Turner, who has moved to the isle after leaving his post as local coastguard chief. The other is Chris Harris, who Mrs Arthur described as a “boon” to the community who “takes part in everything”.

A new beginning?

The upshot is that Skerries could be on the cusp of a bright new beginning, although Mrs Arthur said the island depends in the long run on getting its ferry based at Skerries itself.

Island residents will have to argue the case for a tender to help provide fire cover, however, after their previous fire engine was removed from the isle and taken to Foula – even though it was deemed unfit for purpose.

Mrs Arthur plans to write to transport chief Michael Craigie in the hope that services can be resumed next summer.

“It’s folk that have moved into the isle that are going to help ‘man the pumps’, as it were,” she said.

“We have an active development group, and Steve and Chris are both active members of that. Steve especially is very good at writing business plans and has the know-how to go about that.

“We have an excellent community worker in Pat Christie, and she is helping us as much as she can to point us in the right direction.

“Hopefully with everybody pulling together we’ll get some things achieved.”

She said the shortfall in service started after the island failed to drum up enough people who were able to be firefighters.

But now she has four people who are definitely able to provide cover, and believes she is just a short step away from securing a fifth.

“We had to have a team of five just to get two that could guarantee that there would always be two here when the plane came.

“I have a list of folk who are possibilities of who has said ‘no’ and who has said ‘yes’.

“We think we’re alright. We’re good to go again. I just need to ask one more person and then I’m going to write to Michael Craigie and start it up again.”

She said residents in the isle would welcome the opportunity to see flights reinstated.

“We’ve missed it – especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we have no ferry.”

Mr Craigie said: “We’ve had discussions with Skerries continually since the air service was suspended, trying to resolve a way ahead. If they are reaching a position now where they are able to provide enough people then we will certainly work with them to resolve how we reinstate the air service.”

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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