Liberal Democrat candidate Beatrice Wishart has laid out her five-point plan for improving transport links in the isles.
The plan targets cheaper ferry fares, including cabins, increased freight capacity, ending Sumburgh parking charges and adding business travel to the Air Discount Scheme, funding for internal ferries and fixed links.
Ms Wishart says that the priorities she has outlined would build on former isles representative Tavish Scott’s record.
The Lib Dem candidate also called on the Scottish Government, saying that lifeline services should not be “held to ransom”.
Parking charges at Sumburgh and a lack of cheaper ferry fares are damaging the isles, according to Ms Wishart.
“In Shetland, almost every issues starts and ends with transport. Good, reliable and accessible transport links are of vital importance to our communities,” said Ms Wishart.
“From the delivery of the air discount scheme to securing funding in the Scottish Government budget for internal ferry services and leading the campaign for cheaper ferry fares, I am proud of the Liberal Democrat record. In stark contrast, the SNP have failed to deliver on their promises and introduced parking charges at Sumburgh.
“It is totally unacceptable for SNP ministers to hold our lifeline services at ransom. We need a change, and my five-point plan sets out a positive alternative for Shetland that would make the real difference that local people deserve.
“As a matter of good faith, SNP ministers should listen to local demands and take all the money they have failed to spend on cheaper ferry fares over the last 12 months and recycle it into Shetland services. To choose not to would speak volumes about their priorities.”
Responding to Ms Wishart’s comments, SNP candidate Tom Wills said: “Voters may remember the 5-point plan to slash travel costs that I published a week and a half ago. The difference between my plan, and what the Lib Dems have published today, is that I’ll be working with the Scottish Government to implement my proposals – instead of making demands from the side-lines while refusing to take part in budget talks.
“I’ve already taken the opportunity to push these plans with government ministers and it’s clear they are ready for fresh ideas to support these islands.
“The SNP has delivered a 50% discount on flights and nearly £400 million for mainland ferries since 2007. The money SIC receives to run these services has historically been determined by the local government distribution formula – this was the case when the Lib Dems were in office. For each of the last two years the SNP has provided an extra £5m of funding for internal services.
“The Scottish Government is also committed to implementing an RET-equivalent that includes cabin costs on the Aberdeen route but we have been prevented from doing so by the Pentland Ferries complaint.
“Baseless accusations that the SNP has held Shetland to ransom are part and parcel of the Lib Dems negative narrative that only holds us back. It’s time for a change of tone in this debate. I know there’s more to do, but rather than assuming bad faith, let me prove what we can achieve when we work together.”
Another by-election candidate, Ryan Thomson took to Facebook to express his views on the Lib Dem plan.
“With the Lib Dems refusing to negotiate with the Scottish Government until they take Independence off the table, I’d be interested to know how they think they would be able to achieve these very familiar looking transport objectives,” he wrote.