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Ferries

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Green

The question is why this suddenly became an issue from 2007. I wonder why that year has been picked, because it is very peculiar, to my mind. In the REC Committee’s pre-budget scrutiny, we heard clearly—I see that Mr Cameron is shaking his head, but I do not think that he would take issue with what Highlands and Islands transport partnership told us. It noted that no new major ferries entered service between 2001 and 2011.

We know the age and profile of the fleet—I beg your pardon, Presiding Officer, for averting my eyes. We know how important that is; as with anything, whether it is a motor vehicle or a pedal cycle, the longer we have it, the more repairs are needed and all the rest. There has been a long run-in time to the present situation; it has not suddenly appeared. There has been neglect over decades that is manifesting itself now. It is manifesting itself with the MV Glen Sannox and hull 802, which are desperately needed.

The economic reality is a fact, and the mention in the Government amendment of a reduction in funding is entirely appropriate. The Scottish Green Party will have a different manifesto and has different transport priorities; they will not be about £6 billion for two roads, and they will ensure that public services, including our lifeline ferry services, are properly funded.

I commend the Scottish Government not on its overall approach but on some of the things that it has done, not least the RET and taking the yard into public ownership. We are a maritime nation and we rely on a number of ferries to be replaced. I want Scotland to be known as a location that makes quality ferries—perhaps rather than warships—and we have a long way to go with that. We are not talking exclusively about the fleet that the Scottish Government has responsibility for; there are also the internal services in Orkney and Shetland. There are opportunities there; we are a maritime nation and there needs to be innovation. I regret that the public service ethos is not being followed for the northern isles contract, because I do not think that Serco should have the opportunity there.

Is everything great? No. Is everything awful? No. We will support the Labour amendment.