The Scottish Government, through Transport Scotland, provides financial assistance to reduce the cost of ferry travel on routes that are considered 'lifeline' for remote and rural communities. This is intended to help maintain rural populations, encourage tourism and increase rural economic growth.
Transport Scotland currently subsidises 30 lifeline ferry routes, operated through three contracts at a cost of around £153 million a year. It provides the ferry operators with an agreed level of financial subsidy, allowing them to charge lower ticket prices, in return for a specified level of service. In total, Transport Scotland has invested around £1 billion in ferry vessels, ports and services since 2007. Our audit will examine spending on ferries and what this achieves, to help establish whether it provides value for money. To help us do this, as part of the audit we will consider the views of ferry users and communities about the services they receive.
The operation of ferry services in Scotland is complex due to historical arrangements, EU state aid and maritime legislation. Our audit will explain ferry operations, including the roles of the different bodies involved, and will establish whether appropriate arrangements are in place to make effective decisions on the operation of ferry services.
Our audit will also review the recent Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services (CHFS) procurement exercise. The CHFS contract is worth around £900 million over eight years and is one of the largest contracts let by Transport Scotland. Our audit will assess the procurement and contract management arrangements in place to help identify good practice and lessons learned for future ferry services contracts.