Council to get £5 million for inter-island ferries

Inter-island ferry services have – at last – been handed support by the Scottish government, with £5 million being pledged by the Holyrood administration for 2018/19.

Opposition parties have been lining up to take credit for the change of mind from the SNP authority, which had initially failed to include any details of fair ferry funding in its outlined budget.

Today’s announcement comes after the Green Party struck a deal with the Scottish government to push through the spending and taxation plans.

Chairman of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee, Ryan Thomson, welcomed the news – although he said the allocation for Shetland, on top of £5.5 million for Orkney ferries, fell some way short of the £7 million-plus being sought in revenue the council had been seeking on top of capital funding.

Ryan Thomson.

“Shetland and Orkney have been given funding towards our internal ferries, which is very, very welcome news,” he said.

“It’s not the full ask but it’s without doubt the biggest step forward that we’ve had in terms of securing our internal ferry service.

“It [the funding] will be used to cover revenue costs for the financial year 2018/19. It’s a very, very welcome step forward.”

He said thanks needed to go to Finance Minister Derek Mackay as well as Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, as well as the local Liberal Democrat MSPs, Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur.

He said there was still hope that more funding for ferries could come from central government in the future.

“It secures our internal ferry service in the short term, but obviously there is still a lot of work to be done.

“Derek announced that the Scottish government will continue to explore fair funding with both Shetland and Orkney councils, and that’s very much welcome.”

Currently, unlike the rest of Scotland, the councils in the Northern Isles receive only part funding from the Scottish government to provide internal ferries.

Mr Thomson added: “Shetland Islands Council will continue to pursue the principal of fair funding in line with the Western Isles, which is a hundred per cent funding of our own ferry service.

“There has been an incredible amount of work gone on behind the scenes. Since I came in, in May, it was pretty much straight into fair funding meetings within the first week.”
He said credit needed to go to previous councillors, including his predecessor on the environment and transport committee, Michael Stout, and the council’s former leader, Gary Robinson.

The Lib Dems highlighted talks they had held in recent weeks with Mr Mackay in order to “persuade” him to change the budget.

In a statement, Tavish Scott MSP and Liam McArthur MSP said: “From the outset we have made clear the importance of these lifeline internal ferry services to the communities and constituents we represent.

Tavish Scott
Tavish Scott

“On that basis, we have engaged in discussions with the Cabinet Secretary, made the case and persuaded him to change the budget.

“We have achieved what we set out to do on behalf of our constituents. As a result, internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland get secure funding this year.

“In addition, we have secured a firm commitment to a defined process for finding a longer term solution to the funding and delivery of these lifeline services. We look forward to this making progress over the coming months, and ahead of the budget process for next year.

“Meantime, no-one should be in any doubt, these lifeline services were reaching crisis point. That has now been avoided.

“The previous indifference and broken promises from the Scottish government need to be put firmly in the past.

“Our votes are not a comment on the rest of the budget. We had a single task in our negotiations which we have achieved.”

SNP Ministers previously challenged the Lib Dems to state whether they would support the budget if it included fair ferry funding – a call that met with stony silence from the opposition benches at Holyrood.

Now, though, the Lib Dems have broken their silence on what – overall – they still regard as a poor budget.

“We remain concerned that the budget lacks the overall focus on the long term economy,” the statement added.

“It should do more to invest in people through education and mental health. We will continue to explore with the Scottish government how that can be done.”


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • February 1st, 2018 7:59

    This is great work by Tavish Scott and Liam MacArthur to reverse the Scottish government’s renege on ferry funding promises made to Michael Stout and Gary Robinson during the last council.

    The fact that they had to vote against their own party line to secure this demonstrates their willingness to put constituents interests first.

    • Bill Adams

      • February 1st, 2018 18:47

      I think most of the credit for securing this extra funding is due to the Councillors
      from Orkney & Shetland who have been engaging with the Scottish Government.
      It would have been petty and churlish – dare I say hypocritical –
      for these two gentlemen to have voted against this measure
      which they had been lobbying for.
      Sadly they were unable to persuade their three colleagues
      in that little band of brothers who constitute the parliamentary SLP
      to join them in voting for a budget including this money for the Isles.
      No surprise in the case of their Party Leader Willie Rennie,
      that wee “attention seeker” who would rather drink hemlock
      than have a good word to say about the SNP.

    • John Jamieson

      • February 4th, 2018 9:00

      Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of Lib Dem and Highlands & Islands MSPs stuck to their party line by voting against the Scottish Budget as a whole.

  • Martin Leask

    • February 1st, 2018 13:22

    Well done to the new Council for managing to get pushed through first time something the previous council failed to do with three attempts.

    Young fresh ideas and a different approach paid dividends.

  • Charles Gallagher

    • February 1st, 2018 17:05

    I hate being a Party-Pooper but let’s take a quick reality check. In the vote yesterday it was For the Budget 69 (Including TWO Lib?Dems), Against the Budget 56 (Including THREE Lib/Dems). Now by my arithmetic that is MINUS ONE LIB/DEMS so if it had been a tight vote, well work it out for yourselves.

  • David Spence

    • February 1st, 2018 20:18

    ‘ no-one should be in any doubt, these lifeline services were reaching crisis point. ‘

    I would like to know what the SNP’s outlook is on vital inter-island ferry services for Shetland and Orkney in regard to the ramifications of Brexit, and what impact Brexit will have on future funding for the ferries… or will it be a case of the SNP paying out millions to fly by night private ferry companies where their service will be abysmal and their charges astronomical?

    As and when the UK leaves the EU, would it be the SNP or Westminster deciding who gets the Inter-island ferry service contract or will it still be under the control of the SIC, if indeed there is a Council still in power by then?

    If the lifeline services was in crisis now, one can expect it will be even worse when Brex*hit gets going, and such a services is under the control of Westminster?

  • Bernard Smith

    • February 1st, 2018 22:05

    wir no even scottish lol

    • Graham Fleming

      • February 3rd, 2018 14:37

      I am Scottish,like 81% of residents of Shetland, said at the last census.Very ashamed of my British identity, maybe it’s time Scotland looked north and joined the Nordic Council as a way of reconnecting to Europe.

      • Ali Inkster

        • February 5th, 2018 12:00

        When given a standard 4 choices of Scots English Irish or Welsh what could Shetlanders have chosen other than scot that would not leave us open to prosecution?

      • Brian Smith

        • February 5th, 2018 22:15


  • John Tulloch

    • February 2nd, 2018 8:17

    Why on earth are ” thanks needed to go to Finance Minister Derek Mackay as well as Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf”?

    They are the very ones who reneged on their promise to Michael Stout and Gary Robinson, last year, leaving the SIC short-changed by several million pounds.

    Derek MacKay was even Humza Yousaf’s predecessor as transport and islands minister and led all the Scottish government’s negotiations with the SIC until he was appointed Finance Minister following the 2016 election. So “he kent fine weel aboot it” and yet this money has had to be wrung out of him by Messrs Scott and MacArthur.

    • Geordie Pottinger

      • February 2nd, 2018 18:53

      …..and yet, the LibDems couldn’t wring finance for internal ferries out of the Lib/Lab coalition government when Tavish was Transport Minister. Funny that!

  • Allen Fraser

    • February 4th, 2018 18:44

    Greedy ministers an siddy meal – nothing changes.


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