Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem has criticised the Scottish Government’s “mend and make do” approach to lifeline ferry services.
During a debate in the Scottish Parliament Liam McArthur said:
“While CalMac’s calamities on the west coast have grabbed all the headlines, the situation in Orkney is scarcely less precarious.
“We know Orkney’s fleet already falls far below the minimum standards set out in the government’s own Ferries Plan published almost a decade ago.
“While recent additional funding is welcome, if long overdue, we urgently need to see a proper strategic plan and timetable for the procurement of new, low-carbon ferries.
“SNP Ministers can’t simply wait until crisis point before taking action. These are lifeline services and islanders and our island communities deserve better.”
Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Rhoda Grant, also added her criticism of the handling of the ferry situation by the Scottish Government.
Rhoda Grant said:
“The Scottish Government have failed to manage these services effectively and that failure is causing untold misery to those who live on our islands.
“This is just the beginning of the winter and almost two thirds of Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes were subject to cancellation or change in the last few days.
“How on earth can people plan their lives with that level of disruption?
“The inter-island ferries need to be replaced and freight services to the mainland are not coping with demand.
“This is not due to a lack of investment – indeed the money squandered by this Government is eye watering, had it been spent prudently it could have replaced the whole fleet.”
The debate was brought to the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament by Highlands and Islands Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston.
That the Parliament recognises the vital importance of lifeline ferry links to Scotland’s island communities; acknowledges what it sees as the severe problems that have affected Clyde and Hebridean routes, particularly in the Highlands and Islands region, over the summer of 2021; notes the impact on residents, potential visitors, businesses and public services of a service that is unreliable; recalls the conclusions of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee in its inquiry into the construction and procurement of ferry vessels in Scotland, and notes the view that there is an urgent need for a Scotland-wide ferries strategy that ensures the resilience of the network into the future.
In his response to the debate, Scotland’s Transport Minister Graeme Dey said that “the Scottish Government fully
recognises the importance of our ferry services.”
“The motion calls for a “ferries strategy”, but we have the ferries plan, which is supported by the vessel replacement and deployment plans from 2018.
“More recently, we set out up-to-date investment plans and, in February this year, the infrastructure investment plan. That plan is backed up by £580 million of investment and a five-year pipeline of vessel and harbour projects, and we are working hard to deliver them.
“That builds on previous investment of £2 billion in ferry operations and infrastructure.”
Graeme Day reminded MSPs that whilst the Scottish Government would offer the support it could that Orkney Islands Council is responsible for the replacement of the inter islands ferry fleet.
You can watch the full debate here: