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MSPs call for Scottish Government to honour fair ferry funding commitment

Calls continue to be made to increase the funding of Orkney’s internal ferry services.

Northern Isles MSPs, Liam McArthur MSP and Beatrice Wishart MSP have repeated their calls for the Scottish Government to honour its commitment to fair funding for internal ferry services.

In a letter to minister for public finance, Kate Forbes, the MSPs drew attention to the acceptance by former finance secretary, Derek Mackay, of the principle of fair ferry funding during budget negotiations in 2018.

They also quoted Mr Mackay’s earlier assurance that “the provision of transport services should not place a disproportionate financial burden on any council, particularly with reference to revenue support for ferry services”.

The letter follows a meeting between Ms Forbes and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie when he echoed the call, pointing out that the budget published last week fell £5 million short of what the councils in Orkney and Shetland have calculated is required for the running of these lifeline services.

Mr McArthur said: “In 2018, the SNP Government accepted the principle of fair funding for our lifeline internal ferry services. In return, Tavish Scott and I voted to support the budget.

“Since then, however, the SNP has sought to backslide on this commitment and short change the communities in Orkney and Shetland. This year, that amounts to a shortfall of £5m.

“It is not good enough for SNP Ministers to claim they are open to negotiation if they so brazenly fail to honour the commitments they have made in previous negotiations. What trust can anyone have in the promises they make?

“Derek Mackay may have had to fall on his sword but the commitments he made to fair ferry funding for the Northern Isles was one made on behalf of the government as a whole. It is one that must now be delivered: no ifs and no buts.”

Ms Wishart added: “The principle of fair ferry funding was not only accepted by this SNP government, it also reflected the will of the parliament.

“Any responsible Government budgets for basic lifeline services needed across the country. Ferries in Orkney and Shetland are a lifeline service, not a luxury to be bargained year after year.”