Control of inter-island ferries to come under scrutiny
Proposals aimed at heralding an end to council control over inter-island ferry services are due for debate by councillors.
The SIC’s development committee will tomorrow be asked to decide whether to take up a Scottish government offer of “dialogue” on who should have responsibility for the lifeline services.
It follows the release of a report almost a year ago by the SNP-led authority which set out its proposals for ferry services between now and 2022.
However, it is arguably unlikely that councillors will warm to the idea. Head of the local transport agency ZetTrans, Allan Wishart, last year said people would be “loath” to see control handed over to Holyrood.
Today he voiced concerns that the council would still be paying for a service run in Edinburgh, if the proposal went ahead.
“It’s quite clear the Scottish government will run them but still expect us to pay for them. If someone has got a problem on the Yell crossing who do they phone? If the Scottish government is running it I presume they will have to phone Edinburgh on a Friday night.
“My concern is we’ll end up losing control and not gaining anything for it.”
A report by the SIC’s chief transport official, Michael Craigie, also alludes to the Our Islands Our Future campaign, which focuses on taking control out of Edinburgh, rather than relying on ever-more centralised services.
According to the Scottish ferries plan, the government will consider a variety of factors should the council make an approach. However it states the Scottish government will only become involved if the local authority in question wishes it to do so.
“In considering any request to take over a ferry service, we will assess need on a case-by-case basis,” it states.
“We will take into account factors including: the lifeline nature of the route; the community served, including its population; alternative routes and historic carryings.
“Ultimately, however, it may not always be agreed that a transfer of responsibility goes ahead. In addition, the Scottish government cannot guarantee to be in a position to provide any additional funding.”
See Friday’s Shetland Times for a report from the meeting.