The Scottish Government has been urged to prioritise investment in new ferries for Scotland’s island communities as the SNP's ferries fiasco continues to spiral out of control.
Questioning Finance Secretary Kate Forbes at a meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy Committee earlier today (29 September), Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston asked Ms Forbes what hope she could provide island communities that much needed investment might be part of future Scottish Budgets.
Scotland’s islands have endured a summer of cancellations because of breakdowns, while two replacement ferries for the ageing CalMac fleet are now delayed by years - and hundreds of millions of pounds over budget. There is also increasing pressure on the wider ferries fleet, with particular concerns in the Northern Isles at the need for replacement vessels for ageing inter-islands boats.
Speaking later, the Scottish Conservative MSP commented: “It was good that Kate Forbes at least recognised the very serious concerns communities have about the impact of this summer’s ferry fiasco and the longer term future of these vital lifeline links. I am sure that, as I have, she has been bombarded with messages from constituents worried about the impacts on their jobs and livelihoods, their ability to visit friends and families or even their ability to attend appointments at hospital."
“While Kate Forbes made positive noises, what will really count is whether she actually delivers real investment in future Scottish Budgets and meets her Government’s many promises to islands, most of which have been missed. Given their appalling record so far in delivery a fit-for-purpose ferry fleet or adequate replacement vessels, Kate Forbes should not be surprised if we reserve judgement on her Government’s pledges until we actually see some delivery. The SNP’s record over 14 years in office is not encouraging."
“Scotland’s islands, and all those communities reliant on these vital lifeline ferry links, deserve a service which meets their needs. So far, the Scottish Government in Edinburgh has failed to deliver this and have presided over a growing ferry crisis”.
Jamie Halcro Johnston’s exchange with Kate Forbes can be viewed here (at approx. 11:16:45): https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/economy-and-fair-work-committee-september-29-2021