McArthur calls for Cabinet level focus on Orkney’s ferries taskforce

31 Mar 2023

Responding to the appointment of the new First Minister’s Cabinet and ministerial team, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has called for assurances about the future of the internal ferries task force set up by the former Deputy First Minister, John Swinney.

The call comes as Humza Yousaf confirmed that the Transport portfolio has been removed from Cabinet, raising fears about the priority that will be given to this key area of policy. Mr McArthur has urged fellow Orcadian Neil Gray, who has been promoted to Cabinet with responsibility for the Wellbeing Economy, to take personal responsibility for ensuring the work of the taskforce continues and reaches a successful conclusion.

Commenting, Orkney’s MSP said:

“I wish all those appointed as Ministers well as they look to take on the significant challenges our country, economy and public services face.

“I am concerned, however, at the apparent relegation in importance of the transport brief. This has potential knock on implications for the task force set up by the former Deputy First Minister, John Swinney to consider the future of Orkney’s internal ferry service.

“Without Mr Swinney’s direct involvement in the work of the taskforce there is a real risk that it gets side-lined by this SNP/Green government. Given Neil Gray’s promotion to the role of Cabinet Secretary for the Wellbeing Economy, it would be entirely logical for him to take on responsibility for the taskforce as well. Neil clearly understands the needs of islanders, the importance of these lifeline ferry services to island communities and the urgency required in replacing the current, ageing fleet.

“During his time as Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf made all sorts of promises to people in Orkney, including RET on Pentland Firth routes. As First Minister, with an Orcadian at the heart of his Cabinet, Mr Yousaf can have no excuse for not delivering on these promises as well as on the long overdue replacement ferries”