A petition calling for action to help save hotels from closure and instead pull the plug on the Sella Ness accommodation block has attracted over 2,500 signatures – a response which has left the man behind the campaign “overwhelmed”.
Bus driver Karl Maguire launched his Change.org petition in a bid to seek support for the troubled tourism sector.
He previously said he had been left feeling “disgusted” when the Scottish government overturned a council ruling against Sella Ness.
He is demanding the Edinburgh administration re-examine the decision to give the site at Sella Ness the green light to remain open until half way through this decade.
It follows news the Moorfield Hotel will close its doors for good, despite only opening seven years ago with a business model based on catering for oil and gas workers – particularly those working on the Total Gas Plant.
There was great demand for accommodation at the time of the plant’s construction period, with accommodation barges having to be brought in especially to the isles.
But Total has since decided to shift its workers who were staying in the Moorfield and other hotels to Sella Ness.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which itself has thrown the accommodation sector into disarray, means tourism is in no position to take up the slack.
News of the petition’s success comes after a further kick in the teeth for Moorfield workers, who were last week told the hotel would actually close a month earlier than had originally been expected, on – or shortly after – 5th August.
Staff were given the news after the cancellation of a contract extension.
It comes amid widespread concerns over the impact the decision could have on the isles economy, particularly in the North Mainland area.
Warnings have been issued in recent weeks over the potential knock-on effect the closure of Moorfield could have on other businesses, with fears growing over a potential population decline – just as Shetland Islands Council is seeking to attract more people to live and work in the isles.
The area has suffered job losses elsewhere, too, with EnQuest shedding workers at the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal and Scatsta Airport closing last month.
Mr Maguire hopes to gain maximum exposure to his petition when he eventually hands it over to Shetland Islands Council.
That, he hopes, will strengthen the case from Moorfield’s owners BDL Hotels Limited, which is seeking a judicial review.
“It’s over 2,500 signatures now,” Mr Maguire said. “I’m overwhelmed.”
“I’ve got a couple of questions to ask the council regarding the lease, but I’m hoping at the end to get Sella Ness closed.”
He said he hoped his campaign would gain the support of hotels in Lerwick as well as in the North Mainland.