New action plan aims to give Fair Isle a viable future

HIE aims to make sure Fair Isle is not just for the birds
HIE aims to make sure Fair Isle is not just for the birds

A development plan has been launched to support life in one of Scotland’s remotest communities.

Fair Isle Community Association (FICA) commissioned an independent consultant to explore the current challenges and identify a secure and viable future for the National Trust for Scotland-owned island, which is the most southerly isle in Shetland.

Last year, Fair Isle’s population dipped again to just 55 – its lowest level in several years.

Travel to and from the island, which is renowned for its knitting and birdlife, involves either a 2.5-hour journey by boat or a half-hour trip by plane from mainland Shetland.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Shetland Islands Council gave financial support for the new development plan, Securing Fair Isle’s Future – A plan for Action, which contains proposals for attracting up to 10 new people to the island in the next three to five years, building new houses, refurbishing empty properties and improving ferry links.

Fiona Stirling, head of strengthening communities at HIE, said: “We have been working with the community association to support their plans to increase the population on the island.

“It was important that this work was carried out to identify economic and social development opportunities to secure the future of Fair Isle.”

The islanders are also being supported by Community Broadband Scotland, a Scottish Government initiative to improve access to high-speed broadband.