In light of council finance pressures, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott today asked the Scottish Government whether there are any restrictions on local authorities using bond finance to support local investment proposals and whether it would encourage Shetland Islands Council to do so in order to invest in fixed links.
Finance Minister, Kate Forbes, told Tavish that it is for local authorities to decide how they want to borrow as long as it is affordable and sustainable, but agreed that bond finance has “great potential”, highlighting the new £400m conference centre in Aberdeen. The Minister agreed that bond finance should be explored further.
Commenting after the exchange, Tavish said:
“Central government should fund the capital costs of bridges or tunnels to link Shetland Islands to the mainland.
“But that is sadly not going to happen anytime soon. So I believe that we should explore all possible ways to move forwards on fixed links. That has to be the future for Shetland’s outer island populations and economies. Unst and Yell both need better connections not least to support seafood industry exports. People and product need better links.
“So the sooner a new way forward for funding with fixed links is worked out, the better for the long term sustainability of the Islands economy. Waiting for monies for ferries from government is not proving a successful strategy as the government has not responded to the facts and figures supplied by the SIC.”