Highlands & Islands MSP Maree Todd has welcomed the commitment included in the draft Scottish Budget to deliver an additional £7.7 million ferry funding to support the inter-island ferries in Orkney and Shetland.
The 2021-22 draft Budget includes £19.2m for local authority run ferries, an increase of £7.7m on last year. This ensures that local authorities are fully funded to run their internal ferry services.
This funding also facilitates the introduction of Sunday services and Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) on Orkney’s inter-island ferries.
SNP MSP Maree Todd said:
“The additional £7.7m in funding for inter-island ferries is a positive development and delivers on a key ask from local authority partners at a time of unprecedented financial pressure on the Scottish budget.
“Whilst it is the local authority that is wholly responsible for the ferry services they provide, the SNP Government is sympathetic to the financial pressures which fall on individual local authorities, which we know have been heightened as a result of Covid-19.
“I’d like to give a mention to Cllr Robbie McGregor and his colleagues in Shetland who have made the positive case for additional funding to support inter-island ferries in recent months.
“It’s worth pointing out that for a long time, local authorities received no funding from the Scottish Government to support inter-island ferries, it is only under the SNP that this has changed and increased over the years. Today, we have a pledge to meet the revenue ask in full, fulfilling the SNP government’s commitment to fair ferry funding.
“Considering the draft Budget meets a key ask from the Liberal Democrats, I hope to see the party get behind the budget and support it through Parliament.”
Orkney SNP candidate for the Scottish Parliament elections Robert Leslie said that the additional funding was brilliant news for the islands. He said:
“This delivers on the fairer ferry funding calls that have been made by Lib Dems and the local authority and shows that the SNP government is in full listening mode when it comes to island issues.
“I look forward to these enhanced services and reduced fares being put in place. The next step will be to engage further with the local authority and other parties on the replacement of Orkney’s ancient internal ferry fleet.”
Speaking on the timing of the budget, Ms Todd said:
“It is unfortunate that the Scottish Government has yet again been forced into setting a budget based on such little information from the UK government. Now more than ever, the devolved administrations and local authorities need clarity to appropriately plan for an economic recovery from Covid-19.
“Despite the uncertainty, the draft Budget includes a range of new initiatives to drive economic growth, create jobs and tackle inequalities as well as support businesses, public services and families.”