Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur said that people in the Northern Isles are fed up of the SNP’s ‘jam tomorrow’ approach to cutting ferry fares after parliamentary questions revealed that reductions to prices may be delayed until at least 2018.
During the election campaign, the First Minister told media during a visit to the Northern Isles that "a re-elected SNP government will begin work immediately to look at how we can reduce fares for the northern isles and provide greater support to businesses and residents in Shetland and Orkney". Local SNP candidates in the Isles also ran paid adverts saying that a re-elected SNP government would act.
Answers to parliamentary questions from Mr McArthur indicate that price reductions are set to be delayed until the new Northern Isles ferry contract, which is due to begin in April 2018.
Commenting, Mr McArthur said:
“During the election, the First Minister said she would take immediate action to tackle ferry fares but when pushed on this, the new islands minister refers to a report that was commissioned last year and relates to a contract that won’t come into effect until 2018. A two year delay is not exactly the urgent action that was promised.
“People in Orkney are fed up with this ‘jam tomorrow’ approach. We were promised fare cuts in 2008 and got nothing. We were promised fare cuts again ahead of the 2011 election and got nothing. Having made the same promise again last month, it is time for the First Minister and her government to finally deliver.”
Notes to Editors:
The text of Mr McArthur’s PQ is as follows:
Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands) (Scottish Liberal Democrats): To ask the Scottish Government, further to the reported comment by Nicola Sturgeon in The Press and Journal on 6 April 2016 that "a re-elected SNP government will begin work immediately to look at how we can reduce fares for the northern isles and provide greater support to businesses and residents in Shetland and Orkney", what action it is taking to meet this commitment; on what date the new fares will be (a) announced and (b) introduced; whether each (i) service and (ii) ticket type will be subject to reduced fares; what the average annual saving will be for service users in (A) Orkney and (B) Shetland Islands, and what discussions it had had with (1) Serco NorthLink and (2) other stakeholders regarding the commitment.
(S5W-00046) Humza Yousaf: In December 2015, Transport Scotland commissioned consultants to conduct a comprehensive study to inform the specification of the next Northern Isles ferry service contract, commencing in April 2018. The study is being overseen by a working group of key stakeholders, including Orkney and Shetland Islands Councils, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, HITRANS and ZetTrans, and will report in late Summer 2016. A wider consultation exercise with the public and other key stakeholders, including Serco Northlink, was conducted earlier this year, with a further round of consultation due in the coming months. Fare levels are being considered as part of this study and decisions on future fare levels will be made in due course. I have arranged to meet with the member to discuss this further.