Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) called on the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse to provide emergency funding for Orkney Ferries in light of the severe losses they’ve faced during the pandemic.
During Transport Questions, Mr McArthur drew Mr Wheelhouse’s attention to a letter from the board of Orkney Ferries in August, highlighting that the company is currently making a £600,000 loss per quarter due to reduced demand.
Orkney’s MSP argued that the Scottish Government has made emergency support available for other transport operators across the country, including for the Glasgow subway, Edinburgh trams and other ferry operators, and therefore called for similar support to be made available to protect the future of Orkney’s lifeline ferry services.
In response, Mr Wheelhouse said that through discussions between Transport Scotland and local authority ferry operators it was decided that funding pressures as a result of Covid-19 should be addressed through engagement with COSLA as part of a wider ask from local authorities on covid-related support, which he understood was still ongoing.
Afterwards, Mr McArthur commented:
“The board of Orkney Ferries made crystal clear in a letter to the Scottish Government in August that there is a grave risk to the future of these lifeline services due to the level of losses sustained this year. However, despite the severity of the situation, the appeal has so far fallen on deaf ears.
“While emergency support has rightly been provided for other transport services, Orkney’s ferry services continue to face considerable uncertainty and instability. That is no way to treat a service that is a lifeline to our island communities.
“Losses at this scale are entirely unsustainable and urgent action is needed. However it is provided, Ministers must ensure that Orkney Ferries gets access to the same emergency support as other transport operators.”