It was “yet another year” of fair ferry funding difficulties for the SIC, according to its environment and transport committee.
Chairman of the committee Ryan Thomson told a Monday meeting that the settling of the budget was getting “more and more difficult” due to the burden of ferry funding and that a Scottish government minister should visit the isles to explain its policy.
He said the committee’s budget would look a lot healthier, without the top line of lower fair ferry funding grant income from the Scottish government for internal ferry service running costs.
While it was not the only burden there, it was substantially the largest, by a considerable distance, he said.
Mr Thomson said he would make no apology for expecting the Scottish government to “live up to its obligations”, adding that they had now reached the point where they needed a government minister to come out and explain to the Shetland public why they weren’t.
The council was at the stage of making difficult decisions regarding significant reductions in ferry services or significant reductions across other council services, he said, unless the government fulfilled its obligations.
“I am just really disappointed that we have not been able to secure this funding,” said councillor Catherine Hughson. “I think we are being treated very unfairly.”
She said everybody from the council had been trying “really hard to get them to the table” but that they were almost being held to ransom.
Alec Priest, North Isles councillor, also said he was disappointed with the government’s position and said the financial implications would be “devastating” not just for his constituency but the whole of Shetland.
Any reduction in other services would also have a knock on effect, which he said would cause further economic damage.
Echoing the general frustration in the chamber, councillor Davie Sandison said the situation was like banging their heads against a wall.
Councillor Robbie McGregor said he would continue to criticise the government over ferry funding and suggested that they could bypass transport ministers and go straight to recently appointed finance secretary Kate Forbes.
The budget will be brought before a policy and resources committee meeting and the full council on Wednesday.