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‘Further detailed discussions’ needed about ferry replacement

The Scottish Government is keen for “further detailed discussions” with Orkney Islands Council (OIC) on the matter of ferry replacement, according to the Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

His comments came this afternoon, following the presentation of the Scottish Budget for 2023-24. Yesterday, OIC published an open letter from council leader James Stockan to Mr Swinney, outlining the estimated £443.27million required to replace Orkney’s ageing inter-island ferry fleet (and to carry out infrastructure upgrades).

After today’s announcement, the Deputy First Minister was quizzed by Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, as to whether the council’s needs will be addressed.

As far as the running of the ferry service goes, Mr McArthur described the budget as “delivering a real terms cut”, given the rising costs of fuel and maintenance .

He then asked the deputy first minister how much of the council’s funding request for replacing the fleet will be provided.

Mr Swinney responded: “I am keen to take forward further detailed discussions with Orkney Islands Council on the ferry replacement issue. I recognise the scale of that issue for a relatively small authority and the government will engage constructively and actively with Orkney Islands Council on how we can work together to address that particular challenge.”

While Orkney’s fleet is not specifically mentioned in the budget, the document does show a significant increase in the amount earmarked for capital spending on ferry services in Scotland. That is, from £89.3million in 2022-23 to £210.8million for 2023-24.