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Transport / Replacement freight boats still planned amid government budget cuts

The freighter Hildasay is one of two cargo vessels due to be replaced this decade. Photo: Austin Taylor

THERE is no change to plans for two replacement Northern Isles freight vessels despite the Scottish Government cutting back its spending.

The Scottish Government said in November it had identified savings worth £1.2 billion, including capital reductions, to meet increased costs of public sector pay and to provide support to those who need it most.

The government agency Transport Scotland has previously confirmed it intends to replace the two existing Northern Isles freight vessels, the Helliar and Hildasay, although it is still unclear when they may actually constructed and in service.

These may be ‘freighter plus’ models which include increased passenger cabin space.

It comes amid continued frustration from local industries over the freight capacity on the Northern Isles service.

When asked by Shetland News if the government’s spending would affect the freight boat plans, a spokesperson for Transport Scotland said nothing has changed. 

They added: “Ministers are very clear about the importance of supporting ferry services for the economic wellbeing of key rural industries and our island communities, including the Northern Isles.

“We are currently exploring future capacity and connectivity to and from the Northern Isles while CMAL and NorthLink continue to look for suitable second hand tonnage that could be added to the Northern Isles fleet.

“The Islands Connectivity Plan (ICP), will replace the current Ferries Plan – and consultation and engagement will be central to its development.

“Through this, we will set out a long-term investment programme for vessels and ports which the Project Neptune report called for and islanders need to see. We will consult on the long term plan for ferry and port investment on our networks by the end of this year.”

The spokesperson said Transport Scotland also continues to recognise the importance of internal ferry services in the Northern Isles.

For this financial year more than £17 million has been made available to Shetland Islands Council for inter-island ferry running costs.

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