SHETLAND MSP Tavish Scott has called on the Scottish Government to set out its plans for cutting ferry fares in the Northern Isles.
Last week, Scottish transport and islands minister Humza Yousaf visited Shetland to reiterate the Scottish government’s manifesto promise to reduce the price of ferry travel to and from the isles.
There have been significant reductions in ferry fares on west coast routes after the government first implemented the Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme in 2008.
On Thursday, Scott and Orkney MSP Liam McArthur pressed Scottish Government ministers to “get on with their job” and publish a timetable for their proposed cuts to Northern Isles fares.
Car crossings on some west coast routes have increased by 80 per cent since the RET scheme was introduced, triggering a local boom in tourism.
On the route between Kilchoan, on the Ardnamurchan penisula and Tobermory, on Mull, car crossings nearly doubled to 6,555 between October and July.
“To great fanfare, successive Scottish transport ministers have been found extolling the benefits of a 50 per cent cut to ferry fares on the west coast. Quite right too,” Scott said.
“However, despite their promises the SNP have had nine years to deliver for Orkney and Shetland and have failed.
“While ministers should reflect on the implications increased ferry traffic could have on Northern Isles ferry services, they must get on with their job and set out their plans.”
McArthur said the tourism sector in the Northern Isles was being put at a “competitive disadvantage” as a result of the Scottish Government “sitting on its hands”.
Yousaf confirmed last week that fares for NorthLink’s lifeline ferries to and from Shetland and Orkney would be frozen for a second year in a row.
Over 3,300 people have now signed a petition calling for fairer fares in the isles, with campaigner Ryan Thomson meeting Yousaf during the minister’s visit to Shetland to hand over the signatures.
SNP Highlands and Islands list MSP Maree Todd said she was delighted Yousaf had met Thomson on his visit and said the minister “found these meetings really useful”.
“We are determined to deliver on our manifesto commitment to bring down prices,” she said, “and it is great to see that process begin so soon after the election with an announcement on freezing fares.
“We all recognise the economic benefits that lower fares would bring to Orkney and Shetland – and that is why we are so determined to deliver on this during the current term of government. This is simply the start of the process.”