Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur insists the Scottish Government now has an obligation to act on responses to the National Islands Plan consultation.
As the consultation closed on Friday (26 July), Mr McArthur called on Ministers to deliver tangible improvements for island communities, especially on ferry services.
The consultation ran from April to July and island residents were invited to contribute their views and ideas on a range of issues and challenges ahead of the National Islands Plan being finalised.
Mr McArthur reiterated that one of the key priorities for Orkney would be improvements to lifeline ferry services. Orkney’s MSP highlighted the government’s continued failure to find a solution to the island’s’ internal ferry services, including replacement vessels, and the lack of progress on implementing RET on external services, a year on from the promised start date.
Commenting, Mr McArthur said:
“The National Islands Plan will be important in mapping out the areas where improvements are needed to secure a vibrant future for our island communities.
“During the passage of the legislation, I moved amendments making clear that one of the most urgent priorities would be delivering changes and improvements to lifeline ferry services to meet the needs of people and businesses in Orkney.
“This seems to be the message that is coming through loud and clear in the consultation, as demonstrated by the recent response from the NFUS. It will come as a surprise to no one but should act as a clear signal to Ministers that the continued failure to act is unacceptable.
“We need a sustainable and long term solution to the funding and operation of our internal ferry services, on which some of our most fragile communities rely. This includes replacement vessels for a fleet that is ageing and no longer fit for purpose.
“In addition, more than a year on from the date on which RET was supposed to be introduced, we seem no nearer seeing the reduction in fares. Those using these services are therefore continuing to pay over the odds. That is not good enough.
“Having initiated the consultation, the Government now have an obligation to act.”