Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has secured an commitment from the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf to ‘significant’ cuts in ferry fares on Northern Isles routes, but there is still no clarity around timing.
With one eye on the forthcoming Islands Bill, the Scottish Parliament today debated a motion “Supporting and Strengthening our Island Communities”.
In moving an amendment, Mr McArthur and Shetland MSP Tavish Scott reiterated their calls on the Scottish Government to bring an immediate end to Orkney and Shetland’s exclusion from the government’s cheap ferry fares scheme and a cut in fares in line with reductions introduced on the west coast routes.
The amendment also called for the decision by Scottish Ministers in 2011 to exclude isles-based businesses from the Air Discount Scheme to be reversed.
Disappointingly, SNP Ministers and backbenchers voted against the Liberal Democrat amendment.
Following the debate, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
“I welcome the commitment from the Minister today to deliver “significant” cuts to fares on ferry routes serving Orkney and Shetland. However, there is still no clarity on when this will happen.
“Having been excluded from the SNP government’s cheaper ferry fares scheme for the last eight years, the patience of those living and working in the Northern Isles has long since run out. Urgent action is now needed.
“The SNP Ministers also must urgently rethink their plans to abolish the board of Highlands & Islands Enterprise. This latest example of centralisation shows a blatant disregard for the needs of the region and the benefits of having an economic agency focused firmly on those needs.
“I hope parliament has a chance to debate this issue in the coming weeks. If so, people in the Highlands & Islands will expect their representatives from all parties, including the SNP, to stand up for the interests of their region.”
Notes to editors:
Please see the Scottish Government motion, and the Liberal Democrat amendment below. SNP MSPs voted against the amendment, the Conservatives abstained and Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens voted for.
S5M-02686. Humza Yousaf: Supporting and Strengthening Scotland's Island Communities -That the Parliament recognises the significant contribution that island communities make to Scotland’s cultural and economic wellbeing; commends the role of the Our Islands, Our Future campaign, led by the councils of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles in championing islands’ interests; acknowledges that there is more to do to address some of the challenges faced by Scotland’s islands, including remoteness, declining populations, connectivity and creating sustainable economic development, and notes the establishment of the Islands Strategic Group, the Scottish Government’s forthcoming Islands Bill and proposals for a National Islands Plan, which will seek to strengthen and support the unique needs of Scotland’s island communities.
*S5M-02686.1 Liam McArthur: Supporting and Strengthening Scotland's Island Communities—As an amendment to motion S5M-02686 in the name of Humza Yousaf (Supporting and Strengthening Scotland's Island Communities), leave out from “, and notes” to end and insert “; further acknowledges the Islands Strategic Group and the forthcoming Islands Bill but notes the financial and administrative powers that have been removed from island communities, including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, since 2007; agrees that the centralisation of key public services and functions has reduced local accountability to island communities; calls for an active islands plan to provide a framework within which the unique interests across island communities are considered, and further calls for the decision by Scottish Ministers in 2011 to exclude isles-based businesses from the Air Discount Scheme to be reversed and for ferry fares on routes serving Orkney and Shetland to be reduced from 2017, in line with existing reductions on west coast routes."