Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur have today won vital funding for internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland in exchange for voting for the Scottish Government’s budget at Stage 1.
Internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland are a lifeline link upon which many, often fragile communities rely. However, funding of these services is at breaking point as the spiralling cost to both local councils posed a real threat to their future viability.
In order to safeguard these services, Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur have in recent weeks engaged in discussions with the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay in order to persuade him to change the budget.
Prior to the Stage 1 Budget debate in Holyrood today, Mr Mackay confirmed in writing to Mr Scott and Mr McArthur that he accepted their case and would “provide additional dedicated resource support in financial year 2018-19 for the Orkney and Shetland internal ferry services.”
In a statement, Tavish Scott MSP and Liam McArthur MSP said:
“From the outset we have made clear the importance of these lifeline internal ferry services to the communities and constituents we represent.
“On that basis, we have engaged in discussions with the Cabinet Secretary, made the case and persuaded him to change the budget.
“We have achieved what we set out to do on behalf of our constituents. As a result, internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland get secure funding this year.
“In addition, we have secured a firm commitment to a defined process for finding a longer term solution to the funding and delivery of these lifeline services. We look forward to this making progress over the coming months, and ahead of the budget process for next year.
“Meantime, no-one should be in any doubt, these lifeline services were reaching crisis point. That has now been avoided.
“The previous indifference and broken promises from the Scottish Government need to be put firmly the past.
“Our votes are not a comment on the rest of the Budget. We had a single task in our negotiations which we have achieved.
“Overall, we remain concerned that the Budget lacks the overall focus on the long term economy. It should do more to invest in people through education and mental health. We will continue to explore with the Scottish Government how that can be done.”