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‘What would a modern and sustainable ferry service for Scotland look like?’

That is the overarching question being asked by Holyrood’s Net Zero, Energy & Transport Committee, as it launches its inquiry into current and future ferry provision in Scotland.

Within the inquiry, the Committee will consider areas such as;

  • ‘What do island residents, businesses, and other ferry users need from Scottish Government-supported ferry services?’
  • ‘What institutional and funding arrangements would meet the needs of current and future ferry users?’
  • ‘What vessel size, type, deployment and crewing arrangements would best satisfy the infrastructure?’

The committee is keen to hear from island and mainland residents, individuals and businesses impacted by ferry services, those involved with the industry, operators and asset holders.

Committee Convener, Dean Lockhart MSP, said; “Scotland needs a reliable ferry service that is future-proofed, compatible with Scotland’s net zero goals and meets the needs of all service users. Without this, the stark reality is that the long-term sustainability of island communities and businesses is at risk.

“We’re keen to hear many different perspectives on what a modern ferry service should look like. These views will help us inform Scottish Government policies and strategies with a view to securing a positive outcome for the future of ferries and island connectivity in Scotland.”

Read the questions and respond to the Committee’s call for views at -

While there has been endless news about the failings of the Clyde and Hebrides ferry services, there's been less said about the Northern Isles.  But this week Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has called on the Scottish Transport Minister, the head of Transport Scotland and the managing director of Serco Northlink to come to Shetland urgently to address the quality of their ferry service.

Mr Carmichael wrote to the transport leaders following widely circulated images on social media of many passengers sleeping on the floors of the Lerwick-Aberdeen service in Thursday 30 June because of overcrowding.

There have been growing calls in the isles to address what has been seen as a growing problem of capacity, particularly in the summer months, with islanders further frustrated by restrictions on the sharing of cabins.

Mr Carmichael said:“The pictures we have seen show an unacceptable level of service for the local community.

“This is not a new problem but it now goes well beyond what is acceptable. It is also entirely predictable.  You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to know that when the schools break up for the summer holidays the boats will be busy.

“I have been told by those involved that there were pensioners and children on the floor around the vessel. That is simply wrong.

“I want the Scottish Government’s Transport Minister, Transport Scotland and Northlink senior management to get up here now, face the public and sort it out. It cannot be beyond the wit of man to anticipate spikes in demand like this and to make provision to deal with them.

“This is a lifeline service which receives large amounts of public money. We deserve better than this.”

The committee does not appear to be going to consider whether spending ever-more money on more, bigger ferries and constantly expanding ports is actually a good idea compared to the development of other links, such as tunnels.