Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has reacted angrily to confirmation by the new Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP that the introduction of cheaper ferry fares on Orkney routes will be further delayed, despite repeated promises, including from the First Minister.
Mr Mathieson insisted that a failure to agree terms of the new scheme with commercial operators meant that the government “cannot currently implement reduced fares on any of the routes to and from Orkney without the risk of legal challenge”.
Mr McArthur said that this latest set back is “simply not acceptable” and that people in Orkney have a right to expect both sides to resolve their disagreement “without delay” so that those using these lifeline services are not forced to continue paying over he odds.
Responding to the Scottish Government statement, Mr McArthur said:
“For ten years, people in Orkney have been denied access to the Scottish Government’s cheap ferry fares scheme, introduced on west coast routes back in 2008. After all the promises, it seems the long wait for fairness is not yet over.
“This news will be met with utter dismay locally and means that islanders and visitors alike will be forced to continue paying more than they should to access our lifeline ferry routes. That is simply not acceptable.
“Whatever the outstanding disagreement between the government and commercial operators, people in Orkney have every right to expect both sides to get this sorted without delay. The Transport Secretary also needs to confirm that the fare reductions, once agreed, will be backdated to 30 June, in keeping with the firm promises made by his predecessor and the First Minister.
“This sorry saga has rumbled on for far too long. It is time for people in Orkney to get a fair crack of the whip when it comes to RET”.