Emma Roddick MSP: Ferries, Funding & the EU

If the number of Scottish Government ministers working in Orkney over the summer recess is anything to go by, there is no basis for any argument that the islands get nothing from Holyrood.

Emma Roddick MSP and Nick Hewitt on her recent visit to the Scapa Flow Museum, Hoy

Just days after my visit to Orkney, Minister for Transport Fiona Hyslop was in Kirkwall to chair the latest Ferries Taskforce meeting.

Having used inter-island ferries in Orkney over the summer, I recognise the challenge for the councils in the Northern Isles and other Scottish local authorities that have responsibility for ferries. That is why the Scottish Government has provided more than £136 million over the past five years to support the running of these services around Scotland.

We’re fully aware of the growing need to replace ageing ferry fleets and associated infrastructure, and – while responsibility for funding this does remain wholly with the councils – we are committed to continuing engagement and offering support where possible.

That was the purpose of Fiona’s visit, and as she rightly pointed out, Cabinet Secretary Màiri McAllan now has transport in her title, showing how seriously the issue is being taken.

While it was former Deputy First Minister John Swinney that initiated the process, Màiri, Fiona and others will be ensuring that the relevant resources are made available so that the work of the Ferries Taskforce continues effectively.

Indeed, although there was some time between the taskforce meetings, Transport Scotland officials met with Orkney Islands Council on the 16th of June as part of the ongoing work, and Kevin Hobbs, Chief Executive of CMAL, was in Orkney from the 10th to 13th of July to investigate the infrastructure and advise on design and procurement issues.

Much work, then, has been going on in the background to progress the issue, and I look forward to seeing plans develop in the coming weeks and months. That will include whether the UK Government, as has been suggested, comes forward with an offer of funding to fill the gap left by Brexit, given that the existing Orkney Ferries fleet was created thanks to a proportion of EU funding.

And Orkney’s ferries were far from the only Orkney infrastructure project to benefit from EU funding, as was so well demonstrated by Yes Orkney’s photographic competition run ahead of the agricultural shows, with displays at the Dounby and County shows.

I was aware of most of the EU-backed projects, including the Pickaquoy Centre, the Pier Arts Centre and Orkney Cheese Company, but one I will have to seek out on a future visit is the Crantit Trail, which provided the winning photograph.

When you think of all the benefits Orkney and the rest of Scotland had from EU membership, it is little wonder that support for independence – the only route back into the EU for Scots right now – remains so buoyant.

This is a regular column by SNP MSP Emma Roddick. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their views.

Information board for the Crantit Trail advising you of all the types of people who you may encounter on it

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2 replies »

  1. We mustn’t forget the privately owned ferry from Gills Bay to Orkney. Very effective service at good prices and no cost to the government
    Also managed to do all the commercial work for the services to Orkney when the Icelandic volcano emergency took away the other Orkney ferry link
    Private enterprise!

    • Hear hear. As soon as government takes over the running of any sector chaos rules and public money flows down the WC.

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