Undersea cables carrying essential links for islands should be protected by designated ‘cable corridors’, according to Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart.
The Shetland MSP was speaking today (Tuesday 22 November) ahead of a Scottish Parliament debate on fisheries, at which she intends to say that multiplying developments at sea pose a threat to fishermen.
Her request comes after Shetland suffered a telecommunications outage last month, leading to rumours of international espionage or terrorism by underwater vessels.
But the Scottish Government has now confirmed in correspondence with Ms Wishart that a fishing trawler hit the primary cable.
It’s thought the same thing may have happened to the cross-Minch power cable which failed in October 2020, leaving Lewis and Harris without power from the mainland grid for more than a year.
Protected undersea infrastructure cables corridors would, said Ms Wishart, give certainty to fishermen and reduce the risk of outages.
Ms Wishart said: "Shetland makes a significant contribution to our economy but is facing ever-increasing restrictions on the areas that can be fished because of at-sea infrastructure like offshore wind farms, or cables on the sea floor running to and from such infrastructure.
"There is a real feeling that traditional fishing grounds are being ever encroached upon, pitting energy security and the need to reach net zero against the catching of nutritious fish and food security.
"Designated cable corridors would help to give certainty about where is safe to fish and reduce the risk of telecommunications outages like the one that struck Shetland last month."
Sheila Keith, executive officer at Shetland Fishermen's Association, said: "The establishment of cable corridors would show co-operation in determining responsible co-existence and a respect from developers towards recognising the importance of Shetland and Scotland's fishermen.
"It would be a good start of working towards Scotland being producers of green energy to match the green, sustainable, low-carbon food that fishermen have provided for centuries."