Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Wednesday) used an opposition debate on Transport to repeat calls for the Scottish Government to help with procuring replacement vessels for Orkney’s internal ferry services.
Mr McArthur pressed the government to ‘face up to its responsibilities’ in relation to improvements in Orkney’s internal fleet, following criticism that the recent National Islands Plan provided no detail of any commitments on this crucial issue.
Following the debate, Mr McArthur commented:
“The government’s own National Ferries Plan in 2013 laid bare the extent to which Orkney’s internal ferry services fall short of minimum standards in terms of cost, frequency and accessibility.
“Since then, the situation has hardly improved. Indeed, given the age of the vessels operating these services, operating costs have gone up as reliability has gone down. The need to replace them with vessels that are fit for purpose is growing more urgent by the day.
“Sadly, we still have no timetable for when this will happen. During the passage of the Islands Act last year, Ministers promised that these issues would be addressed in the National Islands Plan. Yet the plan published last month contained nothing new and was dismissed by Orkney Islands Council as ‘very disappointing’ and ‘without any real substance’. This at the same time as Minsters were also backsliding on promises to ‘fair funding’ of the internal ferry service.
“The communities who rely on these lifeline services demand better, as do the crews asked to operate this ageing fleet. Given that it will take time to design, procure and deliver any new vessels, Ministers must now come forward with a timetable for bringing Orkney’s internal ferry fleet into the modern age”.