Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur today called on the Scottish Government to step up the pace in discussions with Orkney Islands Council over replacement ferries for Orkney’s internal services.
Mr McArthur also reminded the Finance Secretary and Transport Secretary that there could be “no rowing back” from the commitment secured in last year’s budget for ‘fairer funding’ of Northern Isles internal ferry services, which resulted in £5.5m for Orkney.
During a second day of debate on the First Minister’s programme for government over the next year, Mr McArthur highlighted Orkney’s current internal ferry fleet “costs more to run, more to fix and more to keep at sea” making replacement an increasingly urgent priority.
Mr McArthur also took the opportunity to remind the Transport Secretary of the need to break the impasse with Pentland Ferries so that RET can be introduced on Northern Isles ferry routes.
Speaking after the debate, Mr McArthur said:
“In her statement yesterday, the First Minister trumpeted the government’s plans for investment in infrastructure. While this is welcome it must benefit all parts of the country, including rural and island areas.
“One way of ensuring this happens is for Ministers to step up the pace in negotiations with Orkney Islands Council over replacement vessels operating on our internal ferry routes. The current fleet is costing more to run, more to fix and more to keep at sea. This is not sustainable and is coming at a cost to the island communities that rely so heavily upon these lifeline services.
“The Islands Act promised much but Ministers cannot think that this is ‘job done’. Island communities, including here in Orkney, want to see action and action on replacement vessels would be a good place to start”.
On the issue of RET, Mr McArthur said:
“I appreciate the dispute with Pentland Ferries is not entirely of the government’s making, but this impasse must now be sorted out. The deafening silence from Ministers over the summer is not encouraging as those travelling between Orkney or Shetland and the Scottish Mainland are continuing to have to pay over the odds”.