I am happy to learn that the new transport and islands minister Hamza Yousef has used his first statement since being appointed to the role to state he was “committed to taking action to reduce fares on ferry services to Orkney and Shetland”.
As the Fair Ferry Fares petition approaches the 2,500 mark after only two and a half weeks, and nearly 1,500 followers on the Facebook campaign page, it is very interesting to note Mr Yousef using his maiden speech to further confirm the government’s commitment to looking at what they also clearly see as extortionate fares.
Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, there has been a somewhat negative reaction to the petition from within the SIC. Councillor Jonathan Wills stating “the petitioners will be supporting a process that is already under way”, and a similar dry response from other leading councillors when handed the press release last week.
It’s a shame, considering the petition’s only objective is positive for the islanders of Shetland and Orkney. We could of course just let the Scottish government get on with it and watch as nothing happens, or we can continue to push and put the pressure on and make sure they deliver us a fair deal.
The process may be under way, but don’t think that just because they are “committed to taking action to reduce fares”, they are prepared to go as far as to increase the subsidy Shetland and Orkney receives to be in line with the Western Isles. There has been absolutely no commitment by the Scottish government to match our level of subsidy to the Western Isles, and that is what the petition is all about.
Of course, we would welcome a decrease in ferry fares for Shetland and Orkney, that is long overdue. But we must continue to demand parity with the Western Isles in terms of the subsidy received, something which has never been promised to Shetland and Orkney.
I would encourage anyone living in Shetland, Orkney, and beyond who have an interest in visiting our fantastic islands to sign the petition at http://bit.do/FairFerry to ensure your name is included among the thousands of supporters who believe we are getting a raw deal on our lifeline service.