Signs have emerged of a softening in the Scottish government’s approach to fair ferry funding, with one Tory MSP insisting a senior SNP colleague has given backing for a better deal on lifeline links.
Isles councillors have been left frustrated by the Scottish government’s funding offer following its budget, not least because of a shortfall in ferry funding.
Complaints have been made by island leaders that the funding settlement, agreed last year, does not meet the full costs of running the internal ferries in Orkney and in Shetland.
In the Western Isles the costs are met by the Scottish government as part of Clyde and Hebridean ferry service contract.
But Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston had highlighted a visit to Orkney by the SNP ‘s constitutional relations secretary, Mike Russell.
According to a news release dispatched on Thursday, Mr Russell told The Orcadian newspaper: “I can take that back, and I can say to my colleagues, look this is a big issue in Orkney, and obviously it needs a resolution”.
Mr Halcro Johnston welcomed the cabinet secretary’s acknowledgement that a resolution was required and urged one to be brought forward.
“I welcome news of Mike Russell’s comments on fair ferry funding, and I’m encouraged by the intervention of a senior SNP minister. As a representative for Argyll and Bute, Mr Russell clearly understands ferry issues rather better than some of his government colleagues.”
It comes after the Scottish government agreed to alter its spending plans with support from the Scottish Greens.
The Greens said the Scottish government had agreed to alter its spending plans in exchange for support in getting the budget through.
SIC leader Steven Coutts told The Shetland Times on Thursday: “At the moment we’re still waiting to see the final full detail on the back of the deal that was done between the Green Party and the SNP. We need to see what the figures actually mean.
“There’s still no commitment on full and fair ferry funding, and that’s something we’ll want to press the government and Green Party on.”