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Transport / Ferry company to appeal court ruling

AN ORKNEY ferry company is appealing a Court of Session ruling in April which rejected its claims that the Northern Isles ferry tendering process is unlawful.

Family firm Pentland Ferries, which runs the non-subsidised service between Caithness and South Ronaldsay in Orkney, said the level of subsidy in the Scottish Government’s next Northern Isles ferry contract amounted to unlawful state aid and would distort the market.

While the Court of Session in Edinburgh rejected the legal challenge, Pentland Ferries is now appealing the decision.

Managing director Andrew Banks said the company is not wanting the Stromness to Scrabster route scrapped, or that Pentland Ferries receives public funding from the Scottish Government.

But he said the company wants “fairness” in the government’s funding of the Northern Isles ferry service, which Banks said threatens his business.

The next Northern Isles ferry contract, worth some £370 million in subsidy over eight years, is currently being tendered by the Scottish Government.

Current operator Serco NorthLink is in the running alongside government-owned CalMac, with the contract due to begin at the end of October.

The service includes routes connecting Aberdeen, Kirkwall and Lerwick, as well Scrabster to Stromness.

Pentland Ferries, however, still has two outstanding complaints to the European Commission relating to the decision to tender the next Northern Isles ferry contract and plans to introduce road equivalent tariff on the routes.