Council Leader James Stockan has welcomed an announcement by Transport and the Islands Minister Humza Yousaf on how the next Northern Isles ferry contract will be awarded.
Councillor Stockan said: “I am pleased that the Minister has come to a decision, allaying any uncertainty that could have built up around how our lifeline ferry links with the Scottish Mainland will be provided in future. I believe the Minister has listened to the views put forward on this and responded by announcing that the next contract to provide Northern Isles ferry services will be put out to tender.
“We have always worked well with the previous operator, NorthLink, and the current provider, Serco NorthLink. Our challenge has never been with the operator, but with the level of service provided under the current contract.
“That’s why we will be negotiating for improvements, including the restoration of a year-round middle-of-the-day return crossing of the Pentland Firth, proper refit cover, and freight fares on the Pentland Firth that are in line with those charges on similar-length crossings elsewhere in Scotland.
“Given that the consultation that led to today’s decision will have considerably delayed the award of the next contract, we will be asking for these improvements to be introduced during lifetime of the current contract – as well as being key components when the new contract comes into force.
“We will be looking for meaningful dialogue with the Minister and with Transport Scotland on this.”
Councillor Stockan added: “We are still awaiting an announcement on the introduction of RET on Northern Isles ferry routes. I hope there is a speedy resolution and agreement reached with the local operator on the Pentland Firth. This needs to happen soon, or our community will be disadvantaged.”