Orkney Islands Council has given its reaction to the Scottish Government’s draft budget. It seeks additional funding for Orkney’s internal ferry service. The Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament have already stated that they will not be participating in any further negotiations over the draft budget. There is room, however, for limited changes to be made – that is why it is a ‘draft’ – and Orkney Islands Council’s representatives will be meeting with the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, to press Orkney’s case.
The Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2019-2020 includes £10.5 million for inter-island ferry services in Orkney and Shetland.
OIC Leader James Stockan said:
“Similar funding was secured in January for the current financial year after considerable lobbying by the Council – a major breakthrough for us.
“Our share was £5.5 million and it is welcome that the Government has again included ferries funding for the Northern Isles in the draft budget for the year ahead.
“This will help with the day-to-day running costs of our inter-island ferry service. But since the January announcement, we have been building the case for long-term funding that is fully fair and equitable.
“Our aspiration is for new and improved vessels operating a more frequent service to our isles communities, with lower fares that match those provided elsewhere in Scotland.
“For the year ahead we are looking for £6.8 million to cover the costs we face in continuing to provide the current service and allow us to begin the process of introducing lower fares on our lifeline inter-island routes.
“Beyond that we are looking for the Government to fund the replacement of our ageing fleet of vessels. We have been working with the Government on this for some years now and are currently developing a business case setting out the service levels our community requires, and the engineering options needed to achieve these.
“We are looking for a fair solution for Orkney that brings us into line with other areas of Scotland. The funding announced in the draft budget is an important stepping stone towards that.
“We welcome the fact that it has finally been recognised that this needs to be part of the annual funding we receive from the Government, but there is still much to be done to ensure we are treated equally when it comes to support for lifeline transportation services across Scotland.
“We will be discussing this with the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, at a meeting next week.”