Nationalise NorthLink campaign

Circular No: NP/164/17


Our Ref: S2/1/2/3

12th October 2017

Dear Colleagues

Nationalise NorthLink campaign

Further to circular No.021/17 of 3rd February 2017, in line with the National Executive Committee instruction, your union has created a public petition in support of the ‘Nationalise NorthLink’ campaign to return Northern Isles ferry services (NIFS) to public operation under David MacBrayne.

The union’s public petition is available online to sign and share here: Please sign this petition and ask as many of your family, friends and workmates to support it.

Nationalise NorthLink Ferries

Scotland's publicly contracted ferry services carried over 5.5 million passengers and 1.5 million vehicles, including road freight in 2016. Audit Scotland estimate the annual subsidy to be around £153m. Lifeline ferry services are crucial links between remote island communities and the mainland, enabling people to visit family, work and access health, education and other services.

Since the Scottish Government handed Serco the 2012-18 NIFS contract, the number of passengers and vehicles (including freight) has fallen, along with the punctuality and reliability scores, compared with the record of the previous operator David MacBrayne. As well as receiving significantly more subsidy, the subsidy clawback which operated under David MacBrayne and returned over £10m to the taxpayer during the 2006-12 contract, was removed from the contract with Serco.

Our shared aim is more frequent, affordable and reliable ferries to the Northern Isles, on properly staffed vessels which are all covered by the collective bargaining agreement with your union. All this can be achieved under public ownership and operation.

As well as stating our intention to campaign to nationalise the NIFS contract, we have contributed to the Scottish Government’s ongoing Ferry Law Review, which is expected to make final decisions in the New Year. We continue to stand by our original legal advice that an exemption from European Union competition and state aid rules for these public contracts is both desirable and possible.

The terms and conditions of all members on NIFS and all other public sector Scottish ferry services are unaffected by the current Ferry Law Review, beyond extensions to the existing Gourock-Dunoon and NIFS contracts.

The union is conducting ships visits for members on ferry operators in the North of Scotland at the end of this month, at the following companies: Serco NorthLink, Orkney Ferries and Pentland Ferries (where we are also demanding recognition). For further details contact Regional Organiser Gordon Martin on 07884 655217 or

I would be grateful if you could bring the content of this circular to all members in your Branch and you will be updated with further developments.

Yours sincerely


Mick Cash
General Secretary