Political skirmishes over the funding of Shetland’s inter-island ferry links have intensified, with the SNP and Liberal Democrats again locking horns over the issue.
Scottish Ministers last week suffered a heavy defeat at Holyrood following a debate launched by opposition MSPs. The Holyrood administration is under pressure to announce a deal as part of its budget, which is due to be announced this week.
But Highlands and Islands MSP, Maree Todd, has criticised the Lib Dem’s continued silence over whether it would support the budget if the Scottish government incorporated a package for inter-island links within its budget.
For his part, Isles MSP Tavish Scott has challenged the SNP to stop sending out its “daily stupid press release”, insisting the party was playing games with Shetland’s interests.
Ms Todd was speaking after issuing a letter to Mr Scott and his Orkney counterpart, Liam McArthur.
“I think it would be fair to our constituents for you to explain the reasoning behind this failure to back increased funding for Northern Isles ferries,” the letter states.
Ms Todd said: “The Lib Dems were keen to make a lot of noise about ferry funding yesterday, but when asked if they would back increased funding for internal Northern Isles ferries in the budget they became eerily quiet.
“I’m now giving Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott a chance to answer the very simple question – if next week’s budget increases funding for internal ferries in the Northern Isles, will they back it?
“A failure to do so would simply confirm that they are only interested in shouting about ferry funding rather than doing anything positive to resolve the situation. They have made their political careers claiming that they put their constituents before their party, now they need to prove it.
“People across the Northern Isles deserve to know the Lib Dems’ position on this – do they support funding for internal ferries or not?
“The SNP will always take action to support our island communities. The Lib Dem MSPs for Orkney and Shetland have a strong track record of doing likewise, there is still time for them do so on this budget.”
But in response, Mr Scott insisted: “Shetland is absolutely sick of the SNP playing games with our future.
“Last week Parliament voted to support inter island ferries. So instead of the daily stupid press release, this government should put the required monies in the budget. That is the only thing that matters.”