Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today expressed further frustration at the Transport Minister’s continued failure to confirm the start date for introducing cheaper ferry fares on Northern Isles routes.
Following concerns that the Northern Isles could be losing out on attracting visitors this summer due to a delay in announcing the start date of the new scheme, Mr McArthur used First Minister’s Questions last month to urge the government to act.
While the First Minister failed to commit to a formal start date, she said she would instruct the Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, to write to Mr McArthur with an update. However, in his letter to Orkney’s MSP this week, Mr Yousaf failed to deliver new information.
Writing to Mr McArthur, Mr Yousaf said he was aware people in the Northern Isles were seeking further news but could only confirm that details on the fares reduction and specific timing of introduction will be made available “as soon as is practical”.
Mr McArthur said:
“To call the Transport Minister’s letter to me an update would be a stretch. The continued lack of clarity on this issue is now beyond a joke.
“Confirmation that rebates will be available to those who book in advance and later find they should have been eligible for the lower fare is welcome, it is far from ideal and likely to give rise to confusion.
“Ministers promised the hard won cheaper ferry fares scheme would be introduced by summer 2018. Yet Easter has come and gone and the public in Orkney is still none the wiser as to how the new fares scheme will work and when it will come into effect.
“I made very clear to the First Minister last month the impact that these delays are having and the urgent need for clarity.
“Islanders quite rightly expect more than just claims about work in progress. The Transport Minister is due to come to Orkney later this month by which stage people will expect him to have answers about when and how RET is to apply on Northern Isles Ferry routes.”