The Board of Orkney Ferries has renewed an appeal to the Scottish Government for emergency funding to offset the severe impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the company.
Board chair, Councillor David Dawson, said the company – which provides Orkney’s inter-island ferry service – is struggling to survive a major drop in income since lockdown measures were first imposed.
In early August, the Board appealed to the Government – in an open letter sent to Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity - for financial support similar to that provided for other transport companies.
“We’re extremely disappointed that there has been no response to date,” Councillor Dawson said. “Since March, our ferries have run with their full complement of crew – but carrying a drastically reduced number of passengers because of social distancing requirements.
“We are losing over £600,000 in income every quarter. That poses a grave risk to the company and the literally lifeline ferry service Orkney’s most vulnerable communities depend on for food, medicine, fuel and other vital supplies.”
Councillor Dawson said other ferry operators, including NorthLink, CalMac and Pentland Ferries, had received emergency support from the Government, as had the operators of the Glasgow Subway and Edinburgh Trams.
“The Cairngorm Funicular Railway, which has been closed with structural faults since 2018, has recently been pledged £20 million in public funding. It beggars belief that such a staggering sum should be awarded for what is essentially a tourist attraction – when there has been no emergency support for the vital service Orkney Ferries delivers for our North and South Isles.
“I find this inexplicable and it causes me to question how seriously the Scottish Government is committed to sustaining island communities. The losses the company is making are unsustainable. We are appealing once more to the Cabinet Secretary to come to our aid at this critical time.”