Islanders betrayed by Sunak as essential new Scilly Islands ferries have no completion date

New Scilly ferries?

 – in service by 2024, then by 2025 and now a date cannot be given  – and tender not issued yet!

By stewartb

I see that the Westminster government is soon to convene the second meeting of its ‘Islands Forum’. It will be held on the Isle of Wight on 24–25 May and chaired by Secretary of State Michael Gove. The first meeting took place in Orkney in September last year.

Part of the Tories’ so-called ‘Levelling Up’ policy, it’s always seemed to me like a crude  wheeze to by-pass devolved governments and funnel economic development funds directly to Local Authorities for the electoral advantage of the Westminster government – or perhaps hoping to disadvantage the government in Edinburgh. ‘Look at all the good things the generous Union government is doing for your local community!’

In a UK government press release on 28 June 2022 entitled ‘Island communities across the UK to come together in Orkney for first Islands Forum’ we learned this: ‘Several projects in island communities are set to benefit from cash injections through levelling up funds.

‘This includes: £48.4 million for the Isles of Scilly to upgrade sea links between the islands and the mainland, including replacing the ferries and delivering harbour improvements. ….’ (This sum included c. £3.4 million for another island project.)

What is it about ‘ferries’?

I see that the Council of the Isles of Scilly is having problems with the Westminster government over the promised investment in new passenger and freight ferries. The Council submitted a Levelling Up bid in June 2021 and was awarded the sum of c.£45 million for the construction of three vessels and associated port infrastructure upgrading.

A year later, on 21 June 2022, the BBC News website had this from the chair of the islands’ Council (with my emphasis): ‘Councillor Robert Francis claimed the Department for Transport (DfT) was “holding up” delivery of the £48m project.’ and ‘The rules around procurement in the Department for Transport are making it extremely difficult to get this done.” He added: “We are desperately hoping that we will get some movement now over the next few weeks to get this project delivered.

“If we can’t do that then we are going to lose another year and I don’t need to tell you how important this lifeline is for Scilly. It is a very fragile situation at the moment with the ships.”

Almost three years after its successful bid, a Council statement issued on 14 April 2023 stated: ‘The original timeline set by government for this project would have seen the delivery of all vessels and infrastructure work by 31 March 2024. This target date subsequently slipped to 31 March 2025.’

And it added crucially: ‘We can confirm that this revised date will not now be achievable, and we will not be in a position to provide an estimate on project completion until we receive further guidance from government.’


Progress on the project has been complicated further by the position on financing now being taken by the private company, the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group which runs the present passenger and freight ferries. (Its three vessels currently in service are all over 30 years old – the passenger vessel, Scillonian III entered service in 1977; the freight vessel  to the mainland, the Gry Maritha was built in 1981; and the inter-island freight vessel, the Lyonesse Lady was built in 1991.)

A statement by the chair of the Council on 21 April 2023 explains a change since the Levelling Up bid was submitted: ‘The Steamship Company’s private equity proposal will not deliver levelling up at all but will in fact make our current situation even worse, albeit with new vessels.’  One wonders what kind of financing option this UK government may prefer?

Current ferry services

The Office for National Statistics in 2022 reported: ‘In the Isles of Scilly, the population size has changed very little since 2011 and was 2,100 in 2021.’

The passenger ferry to the mainland (Penzance) – the Scillonian III – only runs from April to November. In 2023 the standard single fare for a 2 hour 45 minute journey is £76.25 per person.

There are passenger air links from the islands to Lands End, Newquay and Exeter (the latter only from March to November). The standard single fare for the shortest (and cheapest) flight between the islands and Land’s End is £121.50 for a 20 minute journey.


When flights are disrupted or cancelled due to fog or reduced visibility, mainland transfers to and from Penzance by boat are available: ‘These trips can only be done with calm sea conditions. Please contact us promptly as seats fill up quickly. Keep an eye on our Facebook for updates. Private transfers between Scilly and the mainland are possible but can’t be booked more than 2/3 days in advance due to the need for accurate weather & sea forecast.’ (See )

For perspective

The CalMac ferry from Oban to Barra – a journey lasting c. 5 hours – currently costs £15.90 per person for a single fare. From Mallaig to Rum the equivalent fare is £4.70 for a 2 hour 45 minute journey. These CalMac ferries unlike the present Scilly ferries are roll on – roll off plus passenger (RoPAX) vessels.

A single flight from Glasgow to Barra currently costs c. £82 per person. A single from Inverness to Stornoway is c. £120. For a 30 minute flight from Oban to Coll in June 2023 I’ve found single fares ranging from £32.50 to £67.00.

My understanding is that the residents of the Isles of Scilly receive no financial assistance from the Westminster government to reduce ferry fares. Back on 21 January 2013, the BBC News website reported: ‘Isles of Scilly subsidised ferry plea rejected’.

The article explained: ‘Renewed appeals for subsidised transport to the Isles of Scilly have been rejected by the government. Norman Baker, the (Lib Dem) transport minister, said more time was needed to give companies and the Council of the Isles of Scilly a chance to “fill the gaps”. The news comes as a blow to businesses who say holiday bookings are down.’

The Scilly plans

The present two freight ferries to the Isles of Scilly are Lo-Lo (lift on lift off) vessels. As I understand it, a decision has been reached by the Council that when the UK government funding is eventually released, the plan is to continue with Lo-Lo freight services rather than shift to RoPax (roll on – roll off plus passenger) vessels and to continue with a separate passenger ferry.


6 thoughts on “Islanders betrayed by Sunak as essential new Scilly Islands ferries have no completion date

  1. Interesting article stewartb.

    In view of what happened to the Isles of Scilly award, should Shetland Council and the Fair Isle residents be concerned about their award?

    “Shetland Islands Council has welcomed an announcement by the UK Government to provide £27 million for a new roll on-roll off ferry for Fair Isle, with new terminals, through its Levelling Up Fund.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Silly ferry talk. Subsidised by £Billions in excess fuel charges. New ferries fuel costs saving £Billions. £Billion more in saving than has been spent. The plus to the economy of the increased shipbuilding activity. Norway builds 100 vessels a year, Scotland could do the same without Westminster colassal interference. Scotland could be like Norway raise £80Billion in tax revenues andvresources. Without Westminster colassal interference and total mismanagment of the UK and wasting Scottish revenues and resources. Keeping it hidden under the Official Secrets Act. Iraq, Dunblane and Lockerbie kept secret for 100 years. The rest kept secret for 30 years. Westminster colassal mismanagement and corrupt behaviour.

    Heathrow slots and London transport subsidies by Scottish taxpayers. Anywhere but Heathrow putting up the costs of travel from Scotland, overnight costs etc. Thatcher centralised transport through London S/E. Total congestion ruining the economy. Scotland needs its own shipbuilding industry keeping ferry costs down. Less fuel charges saving £Billions in subsidised transport for the isles. Subsidised flights as well keeping travel costs down for the island economy, Not just economic ferries using less fuel. More economical. There has been one ferry build every years for the last nine years. Just like there was before. Same as unionist governance. A ferry built a year.


  3. Scotland is paying for any levelling up. Scottish taxpayers monies. Scotland losing out £Billion in EU grants, loans and investment because of Westmibster corruption. The Westminster corrupt governance. The Barnett Formula. Scotland has to pay repayments on loans not borrowed or spent in Scotland. Scotland pays £Billions for Trident and redundant weaponry. Less Army/navy based in Scotland. £Billion overspend with no equality. Scotland loses £Billions from Brexit. Scotland loses £Billions from tax evasion. Westmibster tax Laws not enforced by Westminster treasury. Scotland cannot borrow to expand growth in the economy. £13Billion? is lost to Westminster mismanagement and poor, bad decisions. No levelling up. Levelling down. The UK the most unequal place in the world. Cuts for the less well off. Tax cuts for the wealthier . The Tories unionist total mismanagement. leaving mor3 people in poverty. Increasing wealth for the rich.


  4. Isles of Scilly pop 2,000

    Orkney/Shetland the Oil industry. They had an oil fund now deplete.

    Westminster took all the oil & Gas revenues spent it on London S/E, illegal wars etc and lied about it. Gave it to the bankers to crash the banking/financial sector. Westminster unionists and their associates making tons of money. Wasted taxpayers monies and revenues. Kept it secret under the Official Secrets Act and lied about it, Alex Salmond found out about it and made it public. The great Oil & Gas rip off for Scotland, by Westminster. Left Scotland in poverty. The North/South divide. Thatcher et al. The Barnett Formula. Thatcher etc lied. Unionists still lying yet.





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