Orkney’s MSP Liam McArthur has urged the Scottish Government to reinforce with the European Commission the urgent need for a decision that would enable RET to be implemented on ferry routes serving the Northern Isles.
At Transport Questions in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, Mr McArthur also called on the Minister for Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, to look at using the underspend on RET over the last year to help support Orkney and Shetland’s lifeline internal ferry services.
In response, Mr Wheelhouse confirmed that the government was engaging with the Commission, but that ongoing legal proceedings made offering any detailed comments or firm commitments difficult. On the issue of using unspent RET funds to support Orkney’s internal ferry services, he confirmed that he was open to further discussions with Mr McArthur, the Council and others.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
“Next month marks a year since RET was supposed to be rolled out on ferry routes to and from Orkney and Shetland. The lack of any firm deadline for resolving the legal dispute or the Commission’s investigation mean that those using these lifeline services face having to continue paying over the odds,
“I have written to the Commission highlighting the difficulties the ongoing uncertainty is creating for locals and visitors alike. I hope that message will also now be reinforced by Scottish Ministers.
“Meantime, there is a strong argument for ensuring the money being saved on RET is used to benefit the Orkney and Shetland communities. Indeed, there is a logic to targeting it at supporting our lifeline internal ferries, including the cost of replacing the ageing fleet.
“The Minister seems to be open to having those discussions and I look forward to working with the Council to help build the strongest possible case.”