Isles MSP Tavish Scott has lashed out at the Scottish government after it announced it is to extend the road equivalent tariff scheme (RET) to more islands but not Shetland and Orkney.
A pilot scheme for the Western Isles, which has boosted tourism by 31 per cent, will be made permanent for passengers and cars, small commercial vehicles and coaches, while hauliers will receive enhanced discounts. Coll and Tiree and other west coast and Clyde islands are also to have permanent RET.
Meanwhile pilot schemes are to be set up for Colonsay, Islay, Gigha and Arran.
It is widely accepted that RET would make travel to and from Shetland more expensive than it currently is, but the day after the shortlist for the North Isles ferry tender was announced, Mr Scott accused the SNP of island apartheid.
He said: “Scotland now has two classes of island. Those who receive preferential bribes otherwise known as RET and those who see their services threatened while no extra money is spent on lifeline services. There is no good news today from the Nationalist government for Orkney and Shetland who face the upheaval, uncertainty and government incompetence of a shipping re-tender. A tender process the Nationalists in opposition said they would abandon.
“I also find it revealing that the Scottish government release this bad news for Orkney and Shetland when the news agenda is dominated by the economy. The UK government are helping all islands with a cut in fuel duty.
The Nationalist government only help the islands [which] they represent – the contrast could not be clearer. When added to the Nationalist cuts to the popular Air Discount Scheme, it is very clear that this Scottish government now have two island transport policies.
“Shetland and Orkney deserve better than a Scottish government who just demonstrate by their actions that they do not care.”