THE SNP candidate for the Shetland by-election says he would press for a 20 per cent islander discount for cabins on the Northern Isles ferries, as well as an increase in peak season sailings.
Tom Wills also said he is in support of making foot passenger fares on Shetland Islands Council’s ferries free.
The candidate mapped out his vision for reducing travel costs for Shetlanders on Wednesday.
Wills also wants to see a three-year freeze on fares on the Northern Isles ferries, as well as a “long-term extension” of the Air Discount Scheme.
He claimed he would be at “Nicola Sturgeon’s door on day one” if successful in the 29 August by-election to make sure the Scottish Government supports his plans.
The government reduced base fares on the ferry between Lerwick and Aberdeen last year by 20 per cent as the first step in a roll out of a road equivalent tariff equivalent, but cabins were not included in this.
A legal challenge from Pentland Ferries meant that the reduced fares has not yet been implemented on the Orkney-mainland route.
“We need a local ferry service that meets the needs of our islands and a link to the mainland that is affordable for families,” Wills said.
“Making inter-island ferries free for foot passengers would help the poorest in our society and encourage greater use of public transport and car sharing. I believe that we should be able to secure additional funding for this progressive change.”
He added that he has “already taken the opportunity to bend the ear of senior figures in the Scottish Government and it’s clear to me that they’re interested in new ideas to help islanders”.
“It won’t be easy with the Tories slashing the Scottish budget year on year, but by working with the Scottish Government instead of against them I am confident it can be done,” Wills said.
The SNP candidate pointed to other ways the current Scottish Government has already delivered support for transport in Shetland – including providing £5 million for Shetland Islands Council’s ferries.
The funding for Shetland’s internal ferries in 2019/20 was £5.2 million – short of the council’s £7.9 million request.
The council remains in discussions with ministers over the funding for 2020/21, but Liberal Democrat candidate Beatrice Wishart claimed the money is being used as a “chess piece” by the SNP.
“The parliament has already backed fair funding for ferries but the nationalist government is still trying to use ferry funding as a chess piece in its budget manoeuvres,” she said.
“It’s a shameful and manipulative way to treat the lifeline services on which every islander depends.”
There are ten candidates contesting the Shetland by-election on 29 August.
They are in alphabetical order: Johan Adamson (Scottish Labour), Brydon Goodlad (Scottish Conservatives), Stuart Martin (UKIP), Debra Nicolson (Scottish Greens), Ian Scott (independent), Michael Stout (independent), Peter Tait (independent), Ryan Thomson (independent), Tom Wills (SNP) and Beatrice Wishart (Scottish Liberal Democrats).
Read more about all ten candidates at our special Shetland by-election page at: https://www.shetnews.co.uk/category/features/election-2019/