The running of Orkney Islands Council’s ageing inter island ferries cannot be maintained without being funded by the Scottish Government. OIC want the full funding of the vital services to the islands covered by the Scottish Government – £6.8million.
Last year the Scottish Government provided OIC with funding for a year to keep the fleet going. Fair Ferry Funding Deal Agreed
£5.5million was secured after Leader of OIC James Stockan successfully negotiated the deal which also saw LibDem MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur vote for the Scottish Budget going against the rest of their party. This year the LibDems have announced that they will not be voting for the Scottish Budget or taking part in any negotiations over it because the SNP are still committed to a referendum on independence for Scotland.
The Scottish Government’s draft budget for the year ahead does include £10.5 million for inter-island ferry services.
James Stockan has notified Ministers that the Council will hand over responsibility for running the service to Transport Scotland unless sufficient funding is provided.
It was announced in December that the Government’s draft budget for 2019-2020 includes £10.5 million for inter-island ferry services for both Orkney and Shetland. OIC want £6.8million – £1.3million more than they got last year which would leave very little for Shetland if the amounts stay the same.
James Stockan said:
“It is welcome that the Government has again included funding for inter-island ferry services in its budget for the year ahead.
“But this time there is no specific amount allocated to Orkney or Shetland. The Government recognises that it will cost £6.8 million to operate our ageing fleet of ferries during 2019-2020 – and that is what we are asking the Government to provide.”
In addition to the extra funding to maintain fair ferries OIC also want the Scottish Government to fund the replacement of the current inter-island fleet. The Council has been working with the Scottish Government on this for a number of years and is currently developing a business case setting out the service levels local communities require, and the engineering options needed to achieve these.
James Stockan said:
“We would object in the strongest possible terms if we end up with a reduction in our ferries funding. This would place a wholly disproportionate and unfair burden on the smallest council in Scotland and would mean us having to make cuts to other vital services.
“The ferries are a lifeline for remote and fragile communities across our islands. Orkney has the oldest fleet and the highest fares in the country – an inequality we cannot address without proper financial support from the Scottish Government.
“We are calling on the Government to take an honourable approach to fulfilling the will of the Scottish Parliament that we should receive fair and equitable funding for our inter-island ferry service.
“The principle of transferring Orkney’s internal ferry service to the Scottish Government, at no net detriment to OIC, has already been approved by the Council. That is a route we will have to take unless we are provided with the funds to run the service over the year ahead.”
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