Here we sit, 180-odd miles from Aberdeen, 180-odd miles from Bergen, preparing for our abandonment by Greater Scotland.
That’s what it feels like. Stewart Stevenson, transport minister at the Holyrood Parliament, has announced that, to save money, the part-CaleyGov owned NorthLink Ferries will, from May and without any consultation at all, run its boats on two engines, not four. Because the boats run on schedules calculated to save cash anyway, and to arrive in port without incurring dockers’ overtime, this will mean ‘only’ an hour’s extra voyaging. The trip from Lerwick to Aberdeen will last 13 hours, not 12. But the killer is the twice-a-week Lerwick-Orkney-Aberdeen run, which will now have to leave at 4.00pm. With an hour’s check-in for vehicles, that means that most working stiffs won’t be able to make the deadline.
In addition, and betraying the complete lack of intelligence involved in this decision, a perceived ‘passenger over capacity’ in the winter could lead to cancellation of some sailings altogether.
Why is this abandonment? Why is this daft? Why does this exhibit either indifference or utter ignorance? Because these ferries are not just ‘passenger’ carriers. They are lifeline connections loaded with freight, exports, imports, essential supplies. Food, for example. Fish.
It’s also, on a wider scale, economically brainless . Shetland is facing up to a five-year-period in which it is poised to become even more of Scotland’s energy powerhouse – wind, tidal, gas as well as oil. There are massive construction projects in the offing which could employ hundreds of people, and every square foot of freight transport capacity is going to be needed.
It might be possible to view this as a Nationalist administration’s contempt for a community which is dyed-in the-wool Libocrat. But the potential loss to Scotland’s overall economy is massive. It’s hard to see this decision as anything but the utmost stupidity. Think again, Mr Stevenson. On the whole, we prefer to be Scottish. For the moment.