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Council welcomes £5.5 million ferry funding announcement

James Stockan, OIC leader.

Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan has welcomed the announcement by the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay MSP, that £5.5 million in additional funding for Orkney’s inter-island ferry service will be included in the Scottish Government’s budget for 2018-19.

The announcement was made this afternoon in the Scottish Parliament, where MSPs debated the government’s proposed budget for the year ahead.

Councillor Stockan said: “This is a red letter day for the council. In 15 years as a councillor, I would rate this as the most significant financial breakthrough we’ve seen for the council. It will provide vital support for our lifeline ferry service and for the organisation as a whole.

“A huge effort has gone into this. We wrote individually to every MSP. We followed that up by writing to all the party leaders at Holyrood. I also met face to face with each of the List MSPs for our region.

“It is important to thank all involved in securing the success of our campaign.

“First and foremost Derek Mackay and his colleagues, for recognising that our call for additional funding was reasonable, equitable and just – and for including fair funding in his budget for the year ahead.

“This result could not have been achieved without the unstinting and unanimous support of our elected members. Our regional transport partnership, HITRANS, and officers of the council have worked tirelessly over the last four years in building a compelling case for fair funding for our ferry services. This successful outcome also depended on us working closely with our Northern Isles colleagues, Shetland Islands Council, Shetland’s transport partnership, ZETRANS, and in particular council leader Cecil Smith.

“The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, on their evidence-gathering visit to Orkney, listened to what we had to say and made clear their support for our case – which also gained the backing of all the political parties at Holyrood.

“The support of our constituency MSPs was always going to be crucial. We lobbied hard and I am pleased that Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott listened to what we had to say, recognised the key importance of this to Orkney and Shetland, and came through by ensuring this became a key budget issue for the Lib Dems at Holyrood.”

Councillor Stockan added: “Delighted as I am, this has to be a qualified welcome for what Mr Mackay has announced today. His budget is for a single year. We still need to secure recurring support – so that our internal ferry service is fully funded year on year by the government.

“That would be a first step on the road to for the sort of ferry service we aspire to for Orkney – with new and improved vessels operating a more frequent service to our isles communities, with fares that match those provided elsewhere in Scotland. We have agreement with the Scottish Government to move forward on these aspirations.”

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