Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today accused the Scottish Government of “ducking their responsibility” to maintain lifeline ferry services in Orkney and Shetland.
Speaking in Holyrood today during oral questions, Mr McArthur put Humza Yousaf MSP, the Transport Minister, on the spot and urged him to explain his government’s decision to leave out fair ferry funding for internal services for Orkney and Shetland in their budget.
In reference to an earlier commitment by the Finance Secretary Derek Mackay MSP that “the provision of transport services should not place a disproportionate financial burden on any council”, Mr McArthur asked the Transport Minister if he believed that lifeline ferry services in Orkney which make up 14% of Orkney Islands Council’s budget “represents a disproportionate financial burden”.
The Transport Minister refused to answer the question. Astonishingly, Mr Yousaf went on to ask why should the government put in more money to something that is “not even our responsibility”.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur said:
“Last week the Scottish Government abandoned the promises it made to the communities in Orkney and Shetland by failing to put fair funding for our lifeline internal ferry services in the budget.
“This week, when asked whether he not he believed that the cost of delivering these services was putting a disproportionate financial burden on the local Councils, the Transport Minister refused to answer and even denied any responsibility.
“In casting around to blame everyone else for the government’s failure to honour the commitments it has made, the Minister seems to be digging himself ever deeper into a hole of denial.
“The government needs to stop playing political games, think again and put Fair ferry funding into its budget. If not, I am determined to bring forward an amendment when the Budget Bill is published next to force Ministers to honour their promises.”