Meeting our ferry needs (Danus Skene)

This SNP Scottish government is getting on with the job of doing everything it can to meet the needs of the country’s island communities.

At the top of the list of things that government can and should do to level the playing field for island communities is to enable the provision of effective and affordable transport.

It is right and reasonable that there should be some “subsidy” of island transport, with general taxation putting money into the system. The Scottish government’s concern, working with the island councils, is to do this effectively, getting value for money.

The Scottish government carries direct responsibility for the ferries on the west coast of Scotland.

The most effective policy principle in making these relatively short ferry trips accessible and affordable is to apply RET – Road Equivalent Tariff. This the government has done, halving most of the fares.

Here in Shetland, the “lifeline” ferry to Aberdeen is too long a route to be helped by RET – the current fare would not be reduced – and the local ferries within Shetland are a SIC responsibility.

Other ways must be found to improve NorthLink and make it more affordable, and to assist SIC with its ferry management, which currently costs £6 million a year from the council’s general funding.

Our Lib Dem MSP is fond of claiming that the SNP government, in finding solution for the west coast, has “forgotten” about the Northern Isles. That is not true, and not in the government’s interest.

The government has frozen NorthLink fares, and increased the discount on ADS flights to 50 per cent. They are working with local councils to devise stable long-term improvements.

Tavish Scott was in fact right to point out in the recent Scottish Parliament debate on ferry services that “RET does not work for us in the same way” as it does on the west coast. Other initiatives are being taken for the Northern Isles.

Danus Skene
The Old Manse,
Commercial Street,


Add Your Comment
  • Johan Adamson

    • December 2nd, 2015 10:41

    As I have said before, if the calculation of RET disadvantages the longest and overnight journeys, then their calculation of road equivalent is incorrect and you need to include the supply of cabins in the calculation. Fares to Shetland and Orkney are still too high for both air and sea transport regardless of all this work that has apparently been done and it does disadvantage us as part of Scotland and it does nothing for our tourist trade.

  • Michael Garriock

    • December 2nd, 2015 11:00

    The very fact that the ferry services to the Western Isles were addressed and the Northern Isles ones not, speaks volumes about priorities. If Scotland is to be considered a fair and just nation, equality must be, and be seen to be just that – everybody in a similar situation needs to be treated equally. Length of voyage is no excuse, solutions for travel to/from the mainland from all island groups should have been addressed and rolled out as one. Bluntly, handing a beneficial scheme to one set of island groupings when there is no real proposals on the table for a similar scheme for the other set of island groupings, is simply discrimination.

    This Scottish Government has had five and one half years to get it sorted, it still has six months to do it. Where there is a will there is a way, and anything else is just so much hot air.

  • John Tulloch

    • December 2nd, 2015 15:51

    For those local politicians who wonder why Wir Shetland exists, here’s part of the answer – and it’s political dynamite!

    Scottish Government transport subsidies, 2013 – 2016, courtesy of For Argyll.

    Apparently Western Isles ferry subsidies have been rising dramatically over the 3-yr period indicated in the table, while Northern Isles ones have been falling, odd that?

    From the (highly) recommended article:
    “The table of figures released by the Transport Minister made us aware that we were blindsided on the fact that there is no RET on the ferry services to the Northern Isles, for which we apologise.
    We had always simply assumed that naturally this subsidy was available to every Scottish island.
    It is hard to understand the logic of denying this support to the Orkneys and the Shetlands.”

    • Jack Brunton

      • December 5th, 2015 21:38

      I continue to be fascinated by Mr. Tulloch, grand visere of Wir Shetland. Whose address is noted as Arrochar. When will he be coming home to man the immigration desk?


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.