Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur and Beatrice Wishart, have today (Friday) written to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport seeking assurances that the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland have in place sufficient contingency to allow Orkney and Shetland’s freight needs to be met over the coming months.
This was in response to Transport Scotland's confirmation this week that a short-term charter has been agreed for the MV Arrow to provide additional services on the Stornoway-Ullapool ferry route operated by CalMac.
The Northern Isles MSPs raised concerns that the MV Arrow charter could have "a knock-on impact” on Northern Isles' producers if additional freight capacity were needed later in the year, as has been the case in the past to deal with peak livestock movements.
Mr McArthur and Ms Wishart also reminded the Cabinet Secretary that the "issue of freight capacity has been an ongoing issue" adding "there is a case for augmenting the freight capacity more generally on these routes to enable our islands to fulfil their economic potential."
Commenting, Mr McArthur, Orkney's MSP said:
"As we approach peak season for the movement of livestock, farmers and indeed other key sectors of our local economy will need to have confidence that the necessary freight capacity is available to meet demand.
"In that context, news of CalMac’s charter of the MV Arrow may well be causing concern. There is already limited freight tonnage available to lease, so this arrangement could yet have a knock-on impact on Northlink's ability to provide the freight service our farmers and other businesses require.
"The Minister and Transport Scotland must, therefore, offer reassurance that contingency plans are in place to meet the freight needs of key sectors in our local economy. I look forward to receiving confirmation that such plans are in place and that discussions with the main stakeholders will be ongoing over the weeks ahead”.
Ms Wishart, Shetland's MSP added:
"Future freight tonnage capacity needs to be addressed. But the last thing we need now is any concern about short term capacity.
"I hope the Cabinet Secretary can reassure islanders that contingency plans are in place. Our local economies need no further knocks."
Transport Scotland's announcement can be found here.
The text of the letter to the Cabinet Secretary is as follows:
MSP for Shetland Islands"