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.
The Old Manse,