Nationalise Northlink

Circular No: NP/0116/19


Our Ref: S2/1/2/3

1st July 2019

Dear Colleagues

Nationalise NorthLink

Further to Circular No. NP/014/19 of 15th January 2019, I write with an update on the union’s Nationalise NorthLink campaign.

Following the reassurances over TUPE and pension protections received from the Scottish Government in December, the union held an effective protest outside the SNP Spring Conference in Edinburgh on 27th April which brought home to SNP politicians and members the positive case for nationalising the next Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS) contract.

Last week, the RMT Scottish Parliamentary Group has also tabled the following Motion S5M-17976 in support of the campaign to Nationalise NorthLink and replace privateers Serco with public sector operator David MacBrayne:

Nationalise NorthLink

That the Parliament notes that the remaining bidders for the Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS) contract are the public sector ferry company, David MacBrayne, and the private sector incumbent, Serco; believes that the next NIFS contract could be worth up to £619 million in public subsidy and fares revenue; is concerned that Transport Scotland will award the 2019-27 NIFS contract in August when the Parliament will be in recess; notes that the amount of profit that Serco may have extracted from the operation of the current NIFS contract since 2012 has never been published by the company or Transport Scotland; further notes that the entire NorthLink fleet of three passenger and two freight vessels is publicly owned; believes that the introduction of road equivalent tariff on NIFS routes will further increase the level of taxpayer support in the next contract for lifeline ferry services; regrets the Ferry Law Review’s decision not to bring the NIFS and all publicly subsidised ferry contracts into permanent public ownership and operation; supports the RMT Union’s Nationalise NorthLink campaign, and calls on the Scottish Government to secure the stability of lifeline ferry services on the Northern Isles network by awarding the next NIFS contract to David MacBrayne when the Parliament returns from recess in September 2019.

This has already attracted cross-party support. The Scottish Parliament is now on recess until 2nd September and, as the motion notes, the 2019-27 NIFS contract is expected to be awarded in August, with the start date of 31st October 2019.

Public operation of the Scottish Government’s public contracts for lifeline ferry services is a fundamental aim for this union. In order to impress this upon MSPs and the Scottish Government, you are asked to contact your Constituency and Regional MSPs requesting that they support the RMT’s Nationalise NorthLink campaign, as outlined in Motion S5M-17976. Enter your postal address here to find your Constituency and Regional MSPs.[1]

The Scottish Government has recently brought the entire passenger and freight fleet serving the current NIFS contract into public ownership. These vessels, including the passenger fleet Hamnavoe, Hjaltland and Hrossey will also be used to operate the next NIFS contract and we will continue to demand that all vessels, passenger and freight, are covered by the RMT CBA.

It is scandalous that this lucrative public contract for lifeline ferry services, worth an estimated maximum of £619m will be awarded by the Scottish Government whilst MSPs are on holiday.

RMT is the only union fighting to Nationalise NorthLink and I urge members to join this fight by contacting MSPs in support of our aims. This will also help put pressure on the Scottish Government to take action to end the obstructive and profit-driven antics of Pentland Ferries owner Andrew Banks who continues to block subsidised fares for passengers travelling between the mainland and Orkney.

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

[1] MSP locator web address: