Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) questioned the Transport Minister over how and when Orkney's ageing internal fleet will be replaced.
During General Questions, Mr McArthur sought clarification on how commitments set out by the First Minister in her Programme for Government on carbon neutral islands by 2040 and low emission ferries by 2032 will deliver the improvements needed to Orkney’s internal ferry service.
Mr McArthur suggested that the Minister, Graeme Dey, who recently visited Orkney, should not need reminding that Orkney's lifeline internal ferry service relies on ageing vessels that are costly to run, damaging to the environment and no longer fit for purpose. In response, the Transport Minister said he was "willing to explore what could be done" to "substantially reducing costs at the design phase" as part of a "shared decarbonisation agenda".
It follows earlier comments by Mr Dey during his visit to Orkney last month where said, "I'm not going to stand here today and say that we can make a commitment to substantial funds for that purpose, or capital funds for the purchase of new ferries, or more accurately means of connectivity", as reported by The Orcadian on 19/08/21.
Commenting on the exchange in parliament, Mr McArthur said:
"The First Minister has set out ambitious plans for decarbonising our islands, including in the area of transport.
“This is both welcome and necessary, but cannot be achieved without investment, amongst other things, in new, low emission ferries.
“The Minister's identification of potential costs that could be met by the government is helpful, but is likely to fall short of what is required. It does at least form the basis of a way forward.
"Time is of the essence, however, both for the island communities who rely on these lifeline services and the environment that cannot afford Ministers to keep kicking the can down the road."