The SIC has welcomed a Scottish government announcement to fully fund Shetland’s inter-island ferry service.
Finance secretary Kate Forbes offered a commitment in today’s budget to address the £5.5m annual shortfall which has been a long-running bone of contention at the council.
The SIC’s political leader Steven Coutts said: “The inter-island ferry service is the social and economic backbone of our islands, and as well as being a lifeline for our people, it represents a significant economic opportunity for Shetland and Scotland.
“We are delighted at the finance secretary’s announcement that our annual revenue deficit will be filled.
“We have made our case to the Scottish government, and the Scottish government has listened and acted. That is all we can ask.
The SIC operates twelve ferries, serving nine remote islands and carrying around 750,000 passengers every year.
However the annual funding shortfall, and the need for investment in the ageing fleet has become a growing concern over recent years.
Mr Coutts said the council still faced a “significant capital challenge” in replacing some of the oldest vessels.
“We will be creative and constructive in our efforts to meet that challenge,” he said.
SNP councillor Robbie McGregor and Shetland’s SNP MSP Candidate Tom Wills also welcomed the increase in ferry funding announced by the Scottish Government today.
Mr McGregor said: “This is fantastic news for Shetland and for the council’s finances. Tom and I have been discussing this with the Scottish government for months and it’s great to see action on ferries in the budget. This is a case of quiet engagement and negotiation proving more effective than noisy demands.”
Mr Wills added: “This additional funding is very welcome at a time when the council’s finances are under serious pressure. Credit is due to Robbie and the other councillors who have made a positive and measured case for additional support for our internal ferry services.”