Editorial: The Old Rock 05.02.10

Will they stick at this one?

Seafarers especially will know that if the eye of the master on the bridge is diverted, and a firm grip on the wheel is not maintained, the ship will have a tendency to lurch around.

Perhaps it is no surprise then, in a week that saw controversial Shetland Islands Council chief executive David Clark on his second period of extended leave (and may well not be returning), that infrastructure committee members decided on a complete change of tack with regard to the Symbister ferry terminal.

The idea of a tunnel to Symbister is, in principle, an excellent one, but councillors have already been down this road several times before and turned back.

A major review carried out in April 2000 concluded that a bridge would be the preferred link from Lerwick to Bressay, a tunnel might be better suited between Yell to Unst, and ferries would be the better option for linking Yell and Whalsay to the Mainland. At that time the price of a tunnel to Whalsay was put at £80 million, compared to a bridge/causeway link at around £20m less and a new terminal at North Voe at £3.7m.

The fact that the price of the Whalsay terminal has now jumped to around £9m, along with fears of an increasingly expensive ferry service for the next 30 years in a difficult financial climate, prompted this week’s turnaround.

A full report (yet another one) is to be prepared before autumn, including some kind of realistic timescale to complete the tunnel.

It would be nice to think that councillors have finally decided to embrace the “go-getter” policy which Mr Clark alluded to when he took office last summer. But history suggests otherwise.

As North Isles councillor Laura Baisley told this week’s meeting, the people of Whalsay need a decision now. The council does not have the luxury of waiting for years like it has done over the new Anderson High School. Indeed.

No dancing to Delhi

The council yesterday sensibly decided against paying part of the £10,000 cost of sending three dancers to the Commonwealth Games in India later this year.

A report before the SIC services committee suggested that there may be some “negative publicity” if the proposal went ahead, but stressed that on balance the potential benefits and positive publicity for the council would be far greater.

“Negative publicity”? We wouldn’t dream of it. But surely we must have missed something here. We always thought the Commonwealth Games was to do with sport.


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