§ Mr. John MacKay
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what financial assistance he will pay to shipping services to the Scottish islands in 1981–82.
§ Mr. Younger
I propose to offer the following revenue grants in the forthcoming financial year:
Caledonian MacBrayne Limited—£5.8 million
Orkney Islands Shipping Company Limited—£0.85 million.
The corresponding sums offered last year were £5.0 million and £0.7 million respectively.109W
I also propose to increase from £1.6 million to £1.9 million the assistance I give to traffic on the roll-on/roll-off services to Orkney and Shetland operated from Aberdeen and Scrabster by the North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Shipping Company Ltd.—P & O Ferries Ltd.—Early discussions will take place with Orkney and Shetland islands council on the application of this level of assistance within the present broad arrangements for reducing freight and passenger charges. I can also confirm that discussions are taking place with the bulk operators regarding the level of assistance that will be offered towards their services in 1981–82.
Altogether I would expect Government assistance in 1981–82 to amount to almost £9.5 million, an increase of 25 per cent. over the corresponding sum—£7.6 million—which will be disbursed this year. This represents another stage in the fulfilment of our commitment to the increase in real terms of Government assistance to sea transport services to the islands communities.
I am still considering the complex question of the structure of Government assistance to island sea transport services, which was the subject of a consultation paper issued last year. The responses to the paper have brought out a wide range of views on the direction which the Government's future policy on the structure of assistance should take. They raise difficult issues which require further careful examination and I am not yet ready to make a statement on these matters; meanwhile, I have been anxious not to delay a further substantial rise in the assistance the Government give towards the island services.