Scottish island tunnels are far from a fanciful idea – Kenny MacAskill MP

Talk of tunnels between Scottish islands by a UK minister is to be welcomed. It’s neither fanciful to imagine nor impossible to deliver.

The Faroes has tunnels to connect different islands
The Faroes has tunnels to connect different islands

Indeed, he’s not the first politician to be arguing that, as Angus Brendan McNeill of the SNP and himself a resident of Barra has been doing so for quite some time now.

The Scottish Office minister’s road-to-Damascus discovery appears to have come from his trip to the Faroe Islands. That’s also largely the basis for arguments previously made by Mr McNeill.

Norway has similar tunnels and road infrastructure that Scotland can only look at and weep. They can be explained by oil wealth, as much as topography. But the situation in the Faroes is different. They don’t possess the untrammelled wealth of their Nordic neighbours but still manage to deliver for their disparate communities.

There are areas in Scotland where it similarly makes sense not just through need but also finance. Of course, there’s significant up-front costs but the savings in ferries and other maritime infrastructure over decades, if not generations, is equally huge.

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Network of tunnels should be considered for Scotland's islands, says UK minister

For sure it can’t be for every linkage as geology and distance may intercede. Tunnels from mainland Scotland to Lewis and Shetland are as preposterous as Boris’s bridge to Ulster.

But there are many where they seem the logical choice. Causeways have been constructed in many parts whether on the islands from South Uist to Eriskay or Barra to Vatersay, never mind on mainland lochs and estuaries.

Some islands are too distant, have winds too great, or are too difficult to access for shipping, even if smaller boats. Tunnels there seem sensible. Linking Lerwick to Bressay isn’t far nor is Harris to Berneray, and there’s many more.

Negating the need for a ferry not only offers longer term savings but opens up life on the islands, allowing for work and pleasure without timetable or climatic restrictions.

There’s also right and an entitlement. Where do the oil and gas revenues come from? And when offshore wind community benefit has, so far, been paltry, it’s time for some pay back. These wouldn’t be the cost of the Elizabeth Line or HS2. It’s time Westminster put some of these communities’ natural resources back from where they came.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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