Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has expressed his disappointment that the freight ship Helliar will once again be used during the refit period for the MV Hamnavoe this month.
In October, Mr McArthur wrote to the Scottish Government to highlight his concerns that the use of a freight vessel to cover the Stromness-Scrabster route failed to meet the needs of passengers or the standards of a lifeline service. He also sought assurances from Ministers that a more suitable vessel would be used during the forthcoming refit period.
However, Mr McArthur has still not received a response from either the Islands Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, or the Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson, despite the refit period starting on 13th January.
Mr McArthur commented:
“It is deeply disappointing that islanders once again face arrangements during the refit period that fall short of what should be expected of a lifeline service.
“I have repeatedly stressed to Ministers the importance of having suitable cover on the Stromness-Scrabster route during the refit period. Last January, the Transport Secretary acknowledged that there was a problem with using a freight vessel as cover and agreed to assess the situation through the ferries review.
“Despite that assurance, inadequate provision has once again been put in place. Given that Ministers can’t even be bothered now to respond to correspondence on the issue, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government couldn’t care less.
“Meantime, as with previous years, passengers face a fortnight during which a lack of space on sailings and accessibility are likely to be problematic. That just isn’t good enough and Ministers need to recognise that island communities need lifeline transport links that are fit for purpose”.