Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has criticised the Scottish Government over plans for replacement cover for the MV Hamnavoe during its refit period in January.
During the last three refit periods, a freight vessel has been used to cover the Stromness-Scrabster route, despite repeated assurances from Ministers that adequate cover would be sought. Ahead of the next refit period, Mr McArthur lodged two parliamentary questions to press for details on what the government is doing to secure a more suitable vessel this time round.
In response, the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse said that ‘no final decision’ has been made. However, he also admitted that “in the absence of replacement tonnage either MV Helliar or MV Hildasay will be utilised on the Pentland Firth crossing during this short period as has been the case in recent years.”
Mr McArthur has expressed his anger at this lack of progress and highlighted that islanders had been assured that using a freight vessel as cover had been a ‘one off’ arrangement.
Commenting, Orkney’s MSP said:
“When a freight vessel was first used as cover for the MV Hamnavoe, Ministers insisted it was just a ‘one-off.’ So much for that assurance.
“Now using a freight vessel to cover the re-fit period on the Stromness- Scrabster route is the ‘go to’ position for Ministers.
“The Minister’s latest response to my parliamentary questions shows a complete lack of urgency with meetings only scheduled for December. It also suggests that there is little determination on the part of Mr Wheelhouse to explore every possible option to secure a more appropriate vessel for this lifeline route during re-fit.
“That is simply not good enough. It also begs the question how many more ‘one off’ cuts to this service the Scottish Government may allow to happen.
“The community in Orkney expects better and I will continue to press the Islands Minister to deliver a service that is fit for purpose all year round”.