Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has hit out at the Scottish Government for attempting to shut down discussion on expanding its cheaper ferry fares scheme to the Northern Isles.
The Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme has meant that ferry fares to the Firth of Clyde islands and Western Isles are cut by 44% for passengers and 55% for cars. Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has been pressing the case for lifeline ferries to Orkney and Shetland to benefit from the scheme as well.
This week the Scottish Government announced a study of the Northern Isles Ferry Services (NIFS) to inform the early stages of the procurement for the next NIFS contract. However, Minster for Transport and Islands, Derek Mackay has ruled out any discussion of extending the RET scheme in the coming consultation, abandoning Orkney and Shetland as the only Islands still excluded from this initiative.
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
“Orkney and Shetland are now the only island communities excluded from the RET scheme. This is unjustified, unfair and unsustainable for a so-called national transport policy.
“The Minister for Transport and Islands, Mr Mackay has been in post for ten months yet seems no closer to telling people in the Northern Isles when or even if they can expect equal treatment with their counterparts in the Western Isles and other communities on the west coast.
“Lifeline ferry services need to be as affordable and accessible as possible. The SNP Government cannot be allowed to close down serious discussions about allowing Orkney and Shetland access to this cheaper ferry fares scheme.
“The Minister must set out plans to open up this discussion, as well as reviewing how the Scottish Government will reverse some of the deep cuts made to the timetable on the Stromness - Scrabster route. Anything else is just empty promises.”