McArthur urges Transport Minister to address Pentland Firth ferry capacity

2 May 2023

Liam McArthur today praised the ‘calm professionalism’ of those involved in the rescue of passengers aboard MV Pentalina on Saturday evening and the ‘generosity’ of the local community who looked after them once ashore.

During Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Orkney’s MSP highlighted the impact the loss of MV Pentalina would have on passenger and freight capacity on the Pentland Firth and urged Transport Minister Kevin Stewart to address this by agreeing to increase temporarily the number of sailings on the Stromness-Scrabster route to four a day while MV Pentalina. He reminded the Minister that this was the arrangement put in place when the MV Alfred was out of service last year. In response, the Minister said he was keeping the matter ‘under review’ and would be willing to increase the sailings ‘if necessary’.

Mr McArthur also reflected that the MV Pentalina was only brought back onto the Hope-Gill’s Bay route after Ministers chartered MV Alfred to ‘plug gaps’ on the west coast, further underlining the lack of resilience across Scotland’s ferry network due to the government’s mismanagement and lack of investment in new ferries over the past 15 years.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McArthur said:

“All those involved in the rescue mission last Saturday, both at sea and then on shore, deserve enormous credit for their calm professionalism and, in the case of the local community, their generosity. It was good to be able to acknowledge that on the parliamentary record.

“However, Orkney now looks set to be without any ferry provision on the Hope-Gill’s Bay route for what is likely to be a number of weeks just as we enter the busiest time of the year. When the MV Alfred was out of service last year, a fourth return sailing was put on the Stromness-Scrabster route. The Transport Minister must agree to do the same this time round.

“This latest incident, however, follows the chartering of MV Alfred to plug gaps in the ferry network on the west coast and provides a further stark reminder of the need for the Scottish Government to get serious about its ferry replacement strategy. The current network both on the west coast and northern isles lacks resilience and it is islanders and island communities that are left paying the price. That simply cannot be allowed to continue”.