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Northern Isles MSPs demand Government unlock RET impasse

August 8, 2018 4:00 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Following the failure of the Scottish Government to introduce full RET on Orkney ferry routes this summer and resorting to a stop gap equivalent for the Aberdeen-Lerwick and Kirkwall-Lerwick routes, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur have called on the new Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, to update local residents on the steps being taken by the government to resolve the impasse.

Despite repeated promises to introduce the cheaper ferry fares scheme before parliament rose for the summer recess at the end of June, Ministers failed to deliver after they were unable to reach agreement with Pentland Ferries on the details of the scheme. As a result, fares for passengers and cars on routes serving Orkney remain higher than they should be with no indication as to when this situation will be resolved.

For services out of Lerwick, fares have been reduced by 12% for islanders as cabins are not included. This is far from the 40% promised by the Scottish Government last year.

Mr Scott and Mr McArthur, have now written to Mr Matheson reiterating their disappointment and demanding an update.

Commenting, Mr Scott said:

"For years, Orkney and Shetland have been excluded from the government's cheaper ferry fares scheme. Then, despite repeated promises over the last year, Ministers have yet to deliver on their promises to islanders. This has left people in the Shetland angry and frustrated, not least as we see another tourism season come and go with fares barely changing.

"Between Shetland, Kirkwall and Aberdeen the discount announced in June does not include cabins so a family of four islanders travelling from Lerwick to Aberdeen with a car and a cabin now receive a mere 12% reduction in fares. This does little to address the prohibitive cost of travel for many isles families.

"The Transport Secretary must set out how he plans to reduce fares to the level the SNP promised. Mr Matheson must know that the longer this shambles goes on, the worse it reflects on the government. The funding has been set aside and must benefit islanders who depend on these lifeline services."