Minister visits projects taking Shetland into the future


UK Government Secretary of State for Scotland Iain Stewart visited Shetland where he saw how cutting-edge projects, from a sustainable energy initiative to a spaceport, are shaping the future of the islands.

His first visit was to the ORION Clean Energy Project, which aims to harness Shetland’s natural resources to produce sustainable, affordable energy. He heard how the project is leading the world in turning Shetland into a green energy hub while contributing to the UK’s net zero ambitions.

The Minster then traveled to Unst, where he met with representatives from the SaxaVord spaceport. The UK’s first vertical satellite launch, backed by £13.5 million from the UK Government, is scheduled to take place from this site later this year.

Visits to Shetland’s food and drink companies were also on the agenda as the Minister met with Shetland Reel distillery and Cooke Aquaculture, a leading producer of Scottish salmon. With Shetland Reel Gin being exported all over the world and salmon being the UK’s number one food export, he was keen to discuss how these companies could benefit from upcoming trade deals and boost Shetland’s economy.

Minister Iain Stewart at Shetland Reel

The Minister later met with representatives from Shetland Islands Council and other key stakeholders to discuss how the Islands Growth Deal could support developments across the region. The heads of terms for the deal were signed in March 2021 to commit £50m of investment from both the UK and Scottish Governments in Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.

Minister Stewart said:

The innovation and ingenuity of the projects I have visited in Shetland has been truly inspiring. From hearing how ORION harnesses the islands natural abundance of wind and wave energy to generate clean energy, to experiencing how Unst’s unique position is helping to pioneer vertical satellite launches from UK soil , these projects underscore Shetland’s leading spirit of innovation.

Shetland’s food and drink offering is fantastic too, with real potential for export growth. It was a pleasure to visit Cooke Aquaculture and even sample some delicious gin at Shetland Reel, Britain’s most northerly distillery.

Almost a year after we signed the heads of terms for the Islands Growth Deal, it’s fantastic to see these projects helping the islands thrive. I look forward to finding out how this funding can go hand in hand with our Leveling Up agenda to future-proof Shetland’s success.

Shetland Council leader Steven Coutts said:

We were delighted to welcome Mr Stewart to Shetland and showcase the economic opportunities in our island community. Our location, natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit means there’s a lot happening and more to come in Shetland.

We have taken the time to discuss some of the challenges of living and doing business in Shetland, particularly the growing impact of rising energy costs and the need to seek solutions to help us overcome them.

The importance of a just transition from oil and gas to Net Zero was also discussed and acknowledged.

The discussions have been constructive and we look forward to developing the positive ongoing relationship and realizing our ambitions.


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