Cheaper ferry fares – councillors’ ultimatum to Yousaf
Senior councillors have given an ultimatum to the Scottish transport minister to make good his promise to deliver cheaper ferry fares.
Elected members have been holding talks with Humza Yousaf during his visit to the isles today (Friday).
Councillors have also insisted that money allocated within the Scottish budget for inter-island ferries should not be a one-off.
Asked if there was any update on when a variant of RET might be rolled out for the isles, interim leader Steven Coutts said councillors were “demanding” action in the next week.
“I understand there is a potential issue on the Pentland Firth where there is a commercial operator that might cause challenges for the government.
“But, from our perspective as a Shetland community, that’s not having a direct impact on us and we want to see sooner rather than later that introduction of RET. It’s long overdue.
“The government gave a commitment to do that within the first half of this year. It’s impacting on the community.”
Chairman of the council’s development committee, Alastair Cooper, said Mr Yousaf had reiterated the Scottish government’s commitment.
Talks also centred on the fair deal offered to the council to help run its fleet of inter-island ferries.
The SNP administration gave £5 million to the SIC to help it maintain inter-island links.
But Mr Coutts is determined a recurring investment from Edinburgh is essential.
Mr Yousaf is likely to make a return visit to the isles during the summer to discuss the issue.
Mr Coutts said: “I had a brief conversation with the minister this morning on this issue and again reiterated to him that we need certainty going forward – a recurring spend both in terms of revenue and also the capital requirements for our internal ferry fleet.
“The budget settlement was a one-off. That is just not acceptable for the Shetland Islands Council and the community. We need certainty. The community needs certainty, and a recurring spend in line with the parliamentary motion tabled by the Lib Dems that the parliament is behind.”
• Full coverage of Humza Yousaf’s visit, including an interview with the minister and updates on the Sumburgh car parking campaign, will be included in next week’s Shetland Times.