The “shambles” surrounding reduced fares on lifeline ferries must be sorted out quickly, according to MSP Tavish Scott.
Together with his Orkney colleague Liam McArthur, Mr Scott has called for the new Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson to update residents and explain why a promised cut – equivalent to the so-called road equivalent tariff (RET) – has not been introduced.
In July Mr Matheson did announce a 20 per cent reduction on the Aberdeen-Lerwick and Kirkwall-Lerwick route “as a first step” for both passengers and cars. That fell some way short of the expected RET reduction, which was ruled out after the Scottish government failed to reach an agreement with the operator of the Pentland ferry service.
Cabins were not included in Mr Matheson’s announcement – something not lost on the Northern Isles Liberal Democrat representatives Mr Scott and Mr McArthur.
They say that means the true reduction in fares for Northern Isles residents is only 12 per cent.
The pair have written to Mr Matheson reiterating their disappointment and demanding an update.
Mr Scott said: “For years, Orkney and Shetland have been excluded from the government’s cheaper ferry fares scheme. Then, despite repeated promises over the last year, ministers have yet to deliver on their promises to islanders. This has left people in Shetland angry and frustrated, not least as we see another tourism season come and go with fares barely changing.
“Between Shetland, Kirkwall and Aberdeen the discount announced in June does not include cabins so a family of four islanders travelling from Lerwick to Aberdeen with a car and a cabin now receive a mere 12 per cent reduction in fares. This does little to address the prohibitive cost of travel for many isles families.
“The transport secretary must set out how he plans to reduce fares to the level the SNP promised.
“Mr Matheson must know that the longer this shambles goes on, the worse it reflects on the government. The funding has been set aside and must benefit islanders who depend on these lifeline services.”