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SIC - Free Tyre Check - 22 Nov 2019

Transport / Pentland Ferries says European Commission investigations are ongoing

Media reports claim that the Orkney company’s complaint into the Northern Isles ferry contract has been dismissed

Pentland ferries passenger ferry Pentalina.

PENTLAND Ferries insists investigations are still ongoing into its complaint to the European Commission over the Northern Isles ferry contract – despite reports that it has been rejected.

A spokesperson for the Orkney based private ferry company said on Friday that the case is still live as investigations continue.

It was reported that the European Commission has turned down a complaint from Pentland Ferries over the subsidies paid under the next Northern Isles ferry contract, which was expected to be awarded in August.

However, the £370 million, eight-year contract cannot be awarded until the outstanding complaint has been resolved.

It is understood that Pentland Ferries would have one month to dispute or accept the commission’s findings, meaning that the awarding of the next contract could be further delayed.

A spokesperson for Pentland Ferries said the commission is in regular communication with its legal representation with regards to the investigation and will be until the case reaches a conclusion.

The European Commission was unable to comment on Friday, but it is understood that the organisation does not reveal information around state aid complaints unless formal steps are taken.

It comes after a similar complaint was heard and subsequently thrown out of the Court of Session in Edinburgh earlier this year.

Pentland Ferries challenged the levels of subsidy provided by the Scottish Government for the ferry contract, focusing on the Scrabster and Stromness route.

The firm, which operates its own ferry business between Gills Bay in Caithness and St Margaret’s Hope in Orkney and does not receive any subsidy, said the inclusion of the Scrabster route across the Pentland Firth within the contract is a threat to its business.

A spokesperson for Transport Scotland, which is awarding the ferry contract, said: “Arrangements for the award of the next contract to operate the Northern Isles ferry services will be announced following full consideration of the outcome of Pentland Ferries’ complaint to the European Commission.”