Transport Minister Keith Brown has today (Thursday, October 3rd), announced £1.9million investment in the next financial year to help support commercial hauliers in the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree.
The investment will ensure ferry fares for commercial hauliers starting from summer 2014 are pegged back at an increase of 2.7%, which Mr Brown confirmed would be in line with the rest of Scotland’s ferry network.
Mr Brown said: “ We are aware of views from some hauliers on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree routes of the impact of the transitional arrangements we have put in place to move commercial hauliers to non-RET fares, and we are listening.
“Against a backdrop of a one third cut to the Scottish Government’s capital budget, and rising costs like fuel – issues which we have no control over – we are facing some very difficult choices,” he continued.
“Our commitment must be to ensure continued improvements to infrastructure and services across all of Scotland’s ferry routes and we are providing a record £423.9million over this and the next two financial years to this end.
“Most recently we also announced our intention to run a three year winter pilot on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale route which underlines our wider ambition.”
Mr Brown added: “The extra investment announced today ensures we strike a balance between delivering a commercial vehicles fares structure for all of Scotland’s islands that is fair, transparent and straightforward, without compromising on wider investment in the whole ferry network, including rolling out of RET for passengers, cars and small commercial vehicles across the entire Clyde and Hebrides ferry network.”
Western Isles parliamentarians MP Angus MacNeil and MSP Alasdair Allan both welcome the announcement.
Dr Allan said: “This is a very positive step forward, and will hold fare increases for lorries on Western Isles ferry routes to the mainland down to 2.7%, instead of the 34% increase being predicted in some quarters.
“Despite immense pressures on Scotland’s budget, the Transport Minister has listened to the views of the community and put almost £2million additional funding into ferry routes in the islands to enable fares to be held down,” he went on.
“Meanwhile, RET fares of course continue for cars, vans and foot passengers, and RET will also be extended to the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra routes by early 2016.”
And Mr MacNeil commented: “I very much welcome this extra funding. These are very tight economic times. The Scottish Government is facing many calls on its budget, while at the same time the budget is being squeezed by the Westminster Government. “I hope that this will be welcomed and it shows that the Scottish Government has been listening to the concerns from a variety of voices from within the communities in the islands.”