Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has demanded that the government provides clarity on when the new Northern Isles ferry contract will be awarded, following recent reports that Transport Scotland officials now say there is ‘no guarantee’ that the contract will be in place by 31st October.
During First Minister’s Questions today, Mr McArthur highlighted the uncertainty that the lack of an announcement and suggestions of a further delay in letting the contract were having. In particular, Mr McArthur warned that many businesses in Orkney and Shetland would find it impossible to plan in the absence of clarity around the future of the service. Orkney’s MSP went on to urge the First Minister to ensure the government sticks to its October deadline.
In response, the First Minister agreed that it was important to avoid any uncertainty for businesses and she hoped that the government would be in a position to make the announcement as soon as possible.
Mr McArthur submitted a parliamentary question last month to ask when the announcement of the contract is expected. To date, he has only revived a holding response.
Commenting after the exchange at FMQs, Mr McArthur said:
“The Northern Isles are being left in limbo when it comes to the awarding of the new ferry contract.
“In her programme for government statement earlier this month, the First Minister promised that the contract tender would be known ‘shortly’. Transport Scotland officials now insist there is ‘no guarantee’ the October deadline will be met.
“Meantime, many people and businesses in Orkney and Shetland are unable to make plans with any real certainty.
“This new contract is already 18 months behind schedule. The First Minister and Transport Secretary must now ensure there is no further delay and that the government delivers on its promise to introduce the new lifeline service by the end of next month”.