Transport / MSPs urge government to ‘protect value’ of concessionary ferry travel vouchers

THE TWO Northern Isles MSPs have criticised the Scottish Government for apparently backtracking on previous commitments to protect the value of concessionary ferry vouchers in light of NorthLink’s withdrawal of shared cabins.

NorthLink passenger ferry Hjaltland berthing at Holmsgarth. Photo: Shetland News

In a recent letter to Orkney MSP Liam McArthur, Scottish transport minister Kevin Stewart confirmed that customers with concessionary travel vouchers will have to continue to use two vouchers in order to book an individual cabin, or else make up the cost out of their own pocket.

The Lib Dems said the statement reverses an earlier commitment from the minister’s predecessor Jenny Gilruth in a meeting with McArthur and Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart to speak to NorthLink about the shared cabins policy and look to ‘protect’ the value of concessionary vouchers.

Stewart confirmed that the “effects of shared cabins not being available has been recognised and will be reviewed in due course as part of the wider consideration of fares policy”.


While the change in policy on shared cabins was originally introduced as a Covid safety measure, ferry operator NorthLink has refused to reintroduce the option despite restrictions being removed.

In his letter to McArthur, Stewart wrote that the “issue of shared cabins on the Northern Isles ferry service was always a complex matter centring around the appropriateness of strangers sharing cabins”.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News

Shared cabins were a popular cost-saving measure on NorthLink ferries, and islanders have now resorted to coordinating journeys over social media to get around the ban.

Wishart said: “Shared cabins have operated on the Northern Isles route for decades as a means to save money on the cost of travelling in and out of Shetland and Orkney.

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“Transport Scotland is using Covid as the excuse to prevent shared cabins and consequently row back on the annual concessionary entitlement.

“The Scottish Government should restore the full entitlement, instead of hiding behind Covid and reducing entitlement by stealth.

“The route from Lerwick to Aberdeen is a 12-14 hour journey. It is not unreasonable for passengers to want to sleep lying flat for the overnight crossing, something you cannot do in a reclining chair or pod, and be properly rested for onward travel and commitments.

“I have already written to the new transport minister twice since he has been in post to put across the strong feelings of islanders on these issues.”

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