Cruise Arrivals


Government will work with OIC ‘to deliver a modern ferry service’

“Extremely promising” are the words that have been used by Orkney Islands Council’s leader, James Stockan, to describe the intentions of the Scottish Government to form a task force on the funding of a replacement internal ferry fleet.

However, for the county’s MSP, Liam McArthur, this is not the first time that such plans have been announced by the government, with the previous result being a group that “had no real ministerial input and went the same way as SNP pledges on RET.”

John Swinney wrote to Councillor Stockan immediately following yesterday’s Scottish Government’s budget statement to say he is committed to “a process to address the renewal of the Orkney internal ferry fleet.”

Mr Swinney has said he will convene a taskforce next January to look at the issue alongside the council, with the findings of that taskforce feeding into Scottish Government budget setting in late 2023.

The taskforce will consider the business case for new ferries and explore the funding sources available.

Speaking after receipt of the letter, Councillor Stockan said: “I would say that our robust discussions with the Scottish Government have helped this issue turn a corner and that the latest developments are extremely promising. 

“The letter from John Swinney, coming so soon after the budget statement, gives me confidence that our messaging on this is getting through to them and that they have a good grasp now on the challenges we are facing and the role that the Scottish Government could, and should, play in meeting those challenges.

“2023 will bring a great deal of work for the Scottish Government and our officials as we plot a course forward – and I look forward to keeping our isles communities,  for whom these lifeline services are so vital, updated on progress.”

The news from the Deputy First Minister was met with a more cautious response from Orkney’s MSP today.

“While the establishment of a ferries task force is welcome it is not the first such task force to be launched by this Scottish Government,” said Mr McArthur. “Former Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf made a similar pledge to people in Orkney back in 2018. In the event, it rarely met, had no real ministerial input and went the same way as SNP pledges on RET.

“Given the importance of these lifeline service, that can’t be allowed to happen again. If Mr Swinney is serious about wanting to find a resolution to this long running saga, he can’t simply announce and retreat. He must stay the course and make clear to his officials that he expects to see this task force agree a plan for delivering the new ferries that are urgently needed. Orkney’s island communities need and deserve nothing less.”