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National Islands Plan

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Paul Wheelhouse Paul Wheelhouse Scottish National Party

I have already given fairly full answers to two members on the point about internal ferry services, so I will use this answer to refer to the freight services. The procurement exercise for the NorthLink services has concluded and we are now working through negotiations with the preferred bidder. As the member knows, there is a standstill period, which we must respect to give CalMac the opportunity to challenge if need be. We are keen to work with the industries in the islands to understand their freight requirements, and we have built flexibility into the contract to allow modification to freight services, should that be needed in due course.

On the comments from the leader of Orkney Islands Council, I stress that we have had positive engagement with Councillor Stockan and his colleagues at the council. Several of the 25 meetings that we have had have been with Orkney Islands Council. At the islands strategic group, Councillor Stockan was made aware of what was in the draft plan and did not object to it at that point. There is an issue about the appeal mechanism in the Additional Powers Request (Scotland) Regulations 2019, which Orkney Islands Council and other councils are concerned about, but we are working with them to try to address that through guidance.