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Transport / Government’s ferry commitment welcomed

The Yell ferry Dagalien. Photo: SIC

A PLEDGE from the Scottish Government to continue working with island councils on “improving” inter-island ferry services has been welcomed locally.

The commitment featured in a Programme for Government published on Tuesday which maps out what actions will be taken in the coming year and beyond.

The programme also confirmed that the result of the recent Northern Isles ferry contract tender will be known “shortly”, with current operator Serco NorthLink and Calmac in the running.

The programme says: “We will continue to work with local authorities in the Northern Isles on improving intra-island services and we will shortly confirm the outcome of the tender for Northern Isles ferry services.”

It added that it will provide an additional £4 million this year in ferry investment across Scotland.

“We will set out the second Scottish Ferries Plan by the end of 2022,” the government said.

“Where evidenced, we will continue to enhance both the Northern Isles and the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services in response to the challenges ahead.”

The issue of fair funding for council inter-island ferry services in Shetland was a key part of the recent Scottish Parliament by-election campaign.

Shetland Islands Council (SIC) received £5.2 million for running its ferries in 2019/20, despite asking for £7.9 million.

It received £5 million the year before, and nothing before that.

Chairman of the council’s environment and transport committee Ryan Thomson said he was “happy” to see a commitment from the government on continuing dialogue with the SIC on improving inter-island ferry services.

“Our position hasn’t changed – we need to see fair and full funding for our internal ferries, both in terms of revenue and capital requirements,” he added.

“I also note the government would like to discuss improvements which would be a welcome boost to our island communities.

“We need our ferries fully funded so we can work with the government to establish a ferry timetable which meets the needs of the communities they serve, which is not the case on specific days for some islands.”

General Election - 12 December 2019