There has been a further delay in the awarding of the contract to run the Northern Isles ferries.
The current operators, Serco Northlink Ferries, who are also the preferred bidder for the new contract, have been given an extension of 3 months to run the service to 31st of January 2020.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat ,has hit out at the delay. He said:
“The new contract for the Northern Isles Ferry Service is already 18 months late. This further three month delay is the last thing communities in Orkney and Shetland needed, given the ongoing uncertainty it creates.
“It seems that every time Ministers make an announcement the deadline for the new contract gets pushed back. This latest delay is blamed on concerns raised by the European Commission. Given the regular dialogue between the Scottish Government and the Commission over the past year, it beggars belief that Ministers should have been caught out in this way.
“Meanwhile, businesses and communities in Orkney and Shetland are left wondering when they will ever get clarity over the future of these lifeline ferry services.”
The delay is the result of complaints about the awarding of the contract raised by Pentland Ferries to the European Commission.
Extending the contract whilst the European Commission is investigating the complaints means that there will be a continuity of service to the islands.
Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands in the Scottish Government said:
“We need to engage further with the European Commission about the on-going complaint from Pentland Ferries and resolve any outstanding issues.
“The extension will allow us to conclude that engagement before signing the new contract with Serco NorthLink Ferries, as well as giving ferry users continuity of service in the short term.
“It’s important to stress that will have no impact on the Scottish Government’s commitments around reduced cabin fares and the three year freeze on islander fares.”