Commenting on the confirmation that the Scottish Government has begun the tendering process for the next Northern Isles ferry contract, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
"Orkney and Shetland made the case for tendering as the best way to support local people, the freight industry and island businesses.
"The Government has taken too long to reach this decision, welcome though it is. Ministers must now learn the lessons of the previous tendering process and make sure that they listen to local stakeholders and respond to the needs of our island communities.
"This contract needs to drive service improvements and improved capacity on these lifeline routes. This needs to happen both in relation to freight and restoring the cuts to services on the Pentland Firth ushered in under the current contract.
“It is imperative that the Pentland Firth and Aberdeen services continue to operate as one and are not ‘unbundled’. I also believe that we need to see Stromness and Scrabster as designated ports again under any future contract.”
“Getting the detail right will require the Minister and his officials to engage early and on an ongoing basis with the island councils, local businesses and other key stakeholders. This process is too important to our islands for Ministers to think they know best."