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Tavish tables ferry contract questions

SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has shot out of the traps after his party’s election defeat and his resignation as Scottish party leader to pressure the new SNP government over their plans for the northern isles lifeline ferry service.

Accusing the previous SNP minority administration of trying to “sneak through cuts” to the ferry service by running them slower on less fuel with fewer trips during winter, Mr Scott is now demanding assurances over the timescale of the new contract.

Last week Shetland transport partnership ZetTrans and current operators NorthLink voiced concern about slow progress on the new contract, which is due to commence in 14 months.

Now Mr Scott has tabled parliamentary questions seeking details of the dates for the various stages of the consultation and tendering process.

He is particularly interested when a draft specification will be put out to consultation and what consultation will there be.

“People are right to be worried about the lack of visible progress. We have little over a year to go until the end of the current contract but we still have to see what they are proposing to put out to tender,” he said.

“The last SNP government tried to sneak through cuts to the current contract with slower running ferries and fewer services in winter. But they had to back down when their plans rightly met universal condemnation.

“We need to see as soon as possible what they are proposing for the next contract so that businesses, trade bodies and individuals can all have their say.”

The MSP said that any form of cuts to the passenger and ferry services would “not be acceptable”, and that instead the service should be improved, especially during the refit period.

He also called for the government to “look again” at NorthLink’s proposal for couchettes to tackle the demand for on board accommodation during the busy tourist season.

“This is Shetland’s main lifeline link to the south – of vital importance to our social and economic life. The new government must make it clear that they accept that and that it will be improved and not cut.”