James Stockan Leader of Orkney Islands Council has described the Scottish Government’s response “frustrating and disappointing” to a call for fair funding for local ferry services.
James Stockan wishes to see full funding for Orkney’s inter-island ferries to be included when the Scottish Government publishes its Budget later this week. He has asked the other political parties at Holyrood to back the OICs call to be treated ‘fairly.’
James Stockan said:
“As we look to the year ahead, there is still no commitment from Ministers to provide us with full and fair funding over the long term. Unless that changes, Orkney will be left with the oldest fleet and the highest fares in the country – and that can only be described as blatant discrimination.”
Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, in the Scottish Government reminded the council that they are “wholly responsible for the inter-island ferry services which they provide”.
Orkney Islands Council has received extra funding over the last two years to support inter island ferries.
Councillor Stockan said:
“I am extremely disappointed that the First Minister has chosen not to respond to our considerable concerns directly, or to meet with me to discuss an issue of fundamental importance to our community.
“I can only describe the Government’s current position as irrefutable discrimination against the people of Orkney. The additional funding we received over the last two years was welcome, but fell far short of what is needed to fully fund our internal ferry service.
“I call on the Government to address this when the Budget is published this week – and I have asked the other parties at Holyrood to offer us their full support in securing full and fair funding for Orkney.
“The running and replacement costs of Western Isles ferries are fully subsidised by the Government. It is only right and proper that we in Orkney should be treated in the same way.”
In the letter, Councillor Stockan also criticises the Government for its continued failure to introduce Road Equivalent Tariff on routes linking Orkney to the Scottish Mainland.
“The roll out of RET began on West of Scotland ferry routes more than a decade ago, reducing fares for local people visitors alike.
“It is our firm belief that there is no impediment preventing RET being introduced on Orkney routes and that any further delay is unfair and will result in significant prejudice against local ferry users.”
The full roll out to RET in the Northern Isles, it is understood, has been delayed due to a legal challenge. If this was to be introduced before the legal challenge was over the independent ferry operator ‘Pentland Ferries’ could be detrimentally affected. The Scottish Government would also be acting outwith the Law.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame