Scotland politics

Scottish election: Broadband fight for remote islanders

Fibre optic cables against world map
Image caption Being digitally connected to the rest of the world is a constant battle for people in the Fair Isle

With the Holyrood election campaign in its third week, BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland reporter Kevin Keane continues his journey to find out what matters to ordinary members of the country's electorate.

This is Scotland 's most remote island community - 25 miles from other people and with only around 70 occupants.

Yet Fair Isle speaks with a loud voice because if something is needed they have to fight hard.

The latest battle, says resident meteorologist Dave Wheeler, is to get faster broadband from BT.

He told me: "The sign up for that is 98% of the 38 subscribers signed up [to existing broadband].

"All the domestic properties have signed up for it but nothing has resulted from that.

"BT said they would work with the community to see what could be done, but in fact I've not heard anything from them since."

They have already enlisted the help of elected representatives to fight their case and believe this type of backing is something candidates should be committing to.

Lisa Sinclair, who is bringing up her four children on a croft along with her boat builder husband, believes island life shouldn't preclude them from being a part of the modern world.

She said: "If you live on an island you benefit even more greatly from things like internet links where you can communicate immediately with the rest of the world.

"I'm working with a music composer from Iceland and have to send large files and it takes absolutely hours.

"If the only people who have good broadband access are where it's economically viable, where the company's going to get its biggest dividends, then smaller areas are really at a disadvantage."

Another big issue for islands are the transport links.

One boat a week operates from here to Shetland along with flights three days a week which are all subject to the weather conditions.

I should know having been treated to an unexpected overnight caused by a fog-bound runway.

Retired resident Stewart Thomson believes all these links rely on tourists who come to see the seabirds and has been fighting for a no fishing zone around Fair Isle to preserve the colonies.

He said: "They are all suffering because of a lack of food in the water.

"The cliffs themselves are protected but the feeding areas are not.

"It has a knock on effect because if there are no tourists we won't fill the seats on the planes and it has a knock on effect for the economy of the island."

One breed which hasn't been spotted on the island so far is the lesser-spotted election candidate.

David Parnaby, local warden, says: "We've not had any at the observatory just yet.

"But they are quite welcome to visit so hopefully we'll see some in the next few weeks."