Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur win lifeline ferry funding in the Budget.
Northern Isles MSPs Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur have today won vital funding for internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland in exchange for voting for the Scottish Government’s budget at Stage 1. Here they explain what this funding means for their island communities:
Today we secured a budget that will deliver fair funding for the lifeline internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland.
Internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland are a lifeline link upon which many, often fragile communities rely. However, funding of these services is at breaking point as the spiralling cost to both local councils posed a real threat to their future viability.
We knew these lifeline services were reaching crisis point. The spiralling cost to both local councils of providing these services posed a real threat to their future viability.
In order to safeguard these services, we engaged in discussions with the Cabinet Secretary, made the case and persuaded him to change his budget.
As a result of our support for the budget, internal ferry services in Orkney and Shetland will get ring-fenced funding this year. In addition, we have secured a firm commitment to a defined process for finding a longer term solution to the funding and delivery of these lifeline services.
We recognise the importance of this issue to the communities and constituents we represent, whose interests we will always prioritise. That is why we have spent the last weeks, working alongside Council colleagues, to build a compelling case and securing support across the parliament.
This was the right approach and it has delivered an outcome that benefits both Orkney and Shetland, an outcome that would not have been secured without our votes for the budget.
It is regrettable, of course, that the Scottish Government earlier failed to honour their promises of fair ferry funding and chose instead to use the lifeline needs of communities in Orkney and Shetland as a bargaining chip in negotiations over budget. However, the previous indifference and broken promises need to be put firmly the past.
As for the rest of the budget, we remain concerned at a lack of overall focus on the long term economy. It should do more to invest in people through education as well as improved funding for mental health. We will continue to explore with the Scottish Government how that can be done.
However, our votes are not a comment on the rest of the Budget. We had a single task in our negotiations to achieve fair funding for our internal ferry services. That is what our votes delivered for Orkney and Shetland.