McArthur raises Hamnavoe cover failure in parliament

29 Feb 2024
MV Hamnavoe entering Stromness Harbour, by Reading Tom.

At General Questions in the Scottish Parliament today, Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur challenged the Scottish Government over its failure to provide a replacement vessel on the Stromness-Scrabster route while MV Hamnavoe was away on refit earlier this year.

Mr McArthur pointed out that over the two-week dry dock period in January, there had been numerous occasions when no service was available across the Pentland Firth.  Orkney’s MSP sought a commitment from the Transport Secretary to ensure there would be no repeat in future and that a replacement vessel would be available on the lifeline Stromness–Scrabster route in future.

In response, Transport Secretary, Fiona Hyslop acknowledged that Mr McArthur had “clearly communicated his concerns about risk in that period” to the Government, but that she was reassured that capacity issues in January had been met.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

“In previous years, Ministers made sure that a replacement vessel operated the Stromness-Scrabster route during MV Hamnavoe’s refit period, even if only a freight vessel. This year, the route was abandoned entirely.

“I warned the government that this was unacceptable and could lead to no service at all across the Pentland Firth at points during this two week period. In the event, this is what happened.

“When I pressed the Transport Secretary over future refit provision, the reassurance I received was less than convincing. There is no doubt that services across the ferry network are stretched desperately thin as a result of years of underinvestment by the Scottish Government. However, Ministers cannot simply abandon a lifeline service and ignore the needs of island communities relying upon it.”