McArthur demands update on ferries task force meetings

25 May 2023

Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has demanded to know when the task force set up to look at replacing ferries on Orkney’s internal routes will next meet.

At Portfolio Questions this afternoon, Mr McArthur highlighted that recent meetings had been postponed with no clarity on alternative dates.

The ferries task force was set up by the previous Deputy First Minister, John Swinney in collaboration with Orkney Islands Council. Mr McArthur also sought confirmation that, following Mr Swinney’s departure from government, the task force would still have Cabinet-level oversight.

In response, Transport Minister, Kevin Stewart confirmed that a date had not yet been set for the next meeting but added that future meetings would be chaired by the new Deputy First Minister, Shona Robison.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

“Orkney’s internal ferry fleet provides a lifeline service to our island communities but new vessels are urgently needed.

“The establishment of a task force back in January to consider the issue of ferry replacement was welcome. However, with John Swinney’s departure from government, the process appears to have stalled.

“Meetings have been put on hold over recent months and the Transport Minister was unable to tell me when the next meeting is due to take place. This will do nothing to allay suspicions that the Scottish Government is not really serious about finding a solution to this long-running issue.

“While it is helpful that responsibility for chairing meetings will remain at Cabinet level with the current Deputy First Minister, that will only matter if meetings actually happen and the government shows the necessary willingness and urgency to reach a solution.”