Newly-elected MSP Tavish Scott wants details of the Scottish Government’s timetable for the tendering of the new Northern Isles ferries contract.
He said he was asking for details of the proposals to consult on the contract specification, following concerns in Shetland about the slow progress being made on a contract which is meant to start in under 14 months.
In parliamentary questions he has tabled, Mr Scott has sought details of the dates for the various stages of the consultation and tendering process, in particular asking when a draft specification will be put out to consultation and what consultation will there be.
Mr Scott said: “People are right to be worried about the lack of visible progress. We have little over a year to go until the end of the current contract but we still have to see what they are proposing to put out to tender.
“The last SNP government tried to sneak through cuts to the current contract with slower running ferries and fewer services in winter. But they had to back down when their plans rightly met universal condemnation. We need to see as soon as possible what they are proposing for the next contract so that businesses, trade bodies and individuals can all have their say.
“What will not be acceptable are any changes which will cut the number of sailings by either the passenger or the freight ferries. Nor can Shetland accept any slowing down of the ferries, leaving us with longer passage times with departure and arrival times which are not suitable for our needs. Instead we need an improved specification, particularly with regard to better cover during the vessel refit period.
“And we need the government to look again at the couchette proposal NorthLink made, which would help to address the shortage of berths on the ferries at peak times but which the last SNP government turned down.
“This is Shetland’s main lifeline link to the south – of vital importance to our social and economic life. The new government must make it clear that they accept that and that it will be improved and not cut.”