THE LIBERAL Democrat candidate for the Shetland by-election, Beatrice Wishart, is seeking clarification from the Scottish Government over the timetable for awarding the new eight year Northern Isles lifeline ferry service contract after Pentland Ferries’ legal challenge was rejected by the Court of Session.
Wishart, who has been running isles MP Alistair Carmichael’s office for many years and is also the vice-convener of Shetland Islands Council, has now written to islands minister Paul Wheelhouse on what is likely to become a main topic of the forthcoming election campaign.
In her letter she also said there were no reasons to further delay the introduction of cheaper ferry fares.
“Islanders are fed up of paying over the odds for lifeline travel to the mainland,” Wishart said.
“Ministers in Edinburgh are still unable to shed any light on when passengers on the Northern Isles routes can expect to benefit from RET. A year on from the promised date for implementing RET, those using these lifeline services are still being forced to pay far too much.
“It’s good news that the appeal has been thrown out. There is now no excuse for delays in getting a new contract in place. So far islanders and businesses calling for reduced costs, greater capacity and flexibility have not had their concerns taken on board.”
Responding to the challenge SNP candidate Tom Wills said the SNP government had invested £20 million in improving internal services.
“While there’s still more to do, the Scottish Government has been working hard to improve transport for Shetland – cutting north boat fares by 20 per cent and investing £20 million to improve internal services last two years alone,” he said.
“The Lib Dems have been playing politics with important local issues like this for far too long. Shetland needs an MSP who is willing to sit down with the Scottish Government and work constructively to make ferry services more affordable and increase capacity.
“The SNP is working with the SIC and industry to improve our ferry services: Lib Dem heckling from the sidelines is neither positive nor constructive.”
A number of senior government ministers are expected to visit the isles over the coming weeks in support of the SNP candidate Tom Wills, and are likely to be challenged on a number of transport related issues.
So far eight candidates have put forward their names for the by-election, which takes place on 29 August. They are in alphabetical order: Johan Adamson (Labour), Brydon Goodlad (Conservative), Stuart Martin (UKIP), Debra Nicolson (Greens), Ian Scott (Fight Austerity, Save Our NHS, Save Our Welfare State), Ryan Thomson (independent), Tom Wills (SNP), Beatrice Wishart (Liberal Democrats).