With 10 per cent ferry fare increases last year around this time and 15 per cent this year, in a continually tightening economic climate what can we expect next year, 20 per cent or more? If the SIC continues on its present course it would seem to be set to achieve what the tyrannical lairds of old failed to do, that is drive all the folk out of the islands.
Possibly the new chief executive is trying to bring SIC ferry fares back into line with Orkney ferry fares. Maybe he and others could look at bringing SIC staffing levels into line with Orkney, for example. Does OIC employ as many education improvement officials as the SIC and does it employ nearly a fifth of the entire population like the SIC?
Some councillors say they don’t want compulsory redundancies but they are using a different method as far as island commuters are concerned.
As Alison Williamson of Whalsay says, ferry fares are a soft target. Council officials can put forward proposals on increases in the knowledge that the bulk of councillors are Mainland based and within that there appears to be a majority with a couldn’t care less attitude to island communities. For example, during last week’s debate on the budget one was reported as saying it was worse for people from Sandness commuting to Lerwick as for islanders. With all due respect to people from Sandness, it is difficult to work that one out when island commuters have the same or more road miles to travel and now will have a ferry fare of nearly £10 on top. Either he was misquoted or doesn’t know the geography of Shetland or cost of ferry fares. There can be no comparison between anywhere on the Mainland and island communities.
What is more than a 25 per cent rise on anything is massive in one year, but when it is on a lifeline service it is ridiculous in the extreme. It is restricting people’s ability to travel to work, causing problems for those who have to travel for whatever reason and adding costs to all islanders.
Surely the pain could have been a bit more evenly spread instead of targeting the most vulnerable communities. This is not a luxury like some things which got away with little or no increase. Islanders have much more to be concerned about than the reduction in the supply of rubbish bags.
Maybe the 21st century clearances have started thanks to the SIC. Despite all the problems for some, councillors see fit to give £841,000 to the Tall Ships event. That of course will be to Lerwick as any ports in the isles being visited will have to do their own fund-raising.
Next year the fare increases may have to be more as the new white elephant at the North Ness will have come to light and may need support.
Talk about living in a crazy world. Anyone living under control of the SIC, especially islanders, fits comfortably under that type of heading.