By Adrian Darbyshire
“Unacceptable” performance standards on the lifeline Northern Isles ferry service could trigger economic stagnation and decline.
That is the hard-hitting criticism of NorthLink’s service in an update to Shetland Islands Council’s risk register.
NorthLink Ferries, which has run the Aberdeen-Orkney-Shetland route for 20 years, was re-awarded the contract by Transport Scotland
in March 2020.
But restrictions on passenger and freight capacity have been causing major headaches for businesses and the travelling public.
In the risk register the council’s head of transport Michael Craigie pulls no punches in his verdict on the service.
He states: “The specification for the service does not meet even the short term economic and social needs of Shetland as they were prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If this position of inadequate service performance is sustained for any significant period of time, then the growing constraints will ultimately have serious impacts on important economic sectors such as aquaculture, fishing, engineering and fabrication, construction and tourism as well as social impacts such is increased isolation making Shetland a less attractive place to live, work, study and invest.”
He adds: “The contracted service does not meet the needs of Shetland, can’t support the economic growth of Shetland and could trigger economic stagnation and decline.
At today’s [Wednesday’s] full council, Shetland North councillor Tom Morton described the risk register’s comments as “remarkably terse”.