Commercial vehicles eligible for RET

msp for the Western Isles Alasdair Allan has welcomed confirmation from Transport Minister, Keith Brown, that small commercial vehicles up to 6 metres in length will be eligible for RET fares from Spring 2012.

Dr Allan also called on the Minister to ensure that no company will see their fares double this year. The MSP called for a “real and substantial” move by Mr Brown at today’s (Tuesday) meeting with island businesses on the future of ferry fares for lorries.

Dr Allan said that, whatever solution was reached tomorrow on the wider issue of fares, it must not include the steep rises in costs for lorries which the Government had initially proposed.

Alasdair Allan, who facilitated today’s meeting in Edinburgh, commented: “The Transport Minister has today responded to my call for a long overdue change to the “five-metre rule”, which means that from Spring 2012 small commercial vehicles up to 6 metres in length will now be eligible for RET fares. This is very positive news for everyone in the islands who takes a van onto the ferry, but it is still only a beginning.

“This is a welcome sign, I hope, that the minister is listening to the concerns of people on the islands about the changes to fares for larger commercial vehicles too.

“At the meeting, businesses will make, I know, a robust case for the retention of RET on commercial vehicles in the Western Isles, and I will convey the strength of the representations they have made to me about that issue. The Transport Minister will then have a chance to respond to this, with his views on a way forward.

“It is my belief that any response from the Government must be meaningful, and must make a substantial offer to companies who would otherwise feel the effects of sudden changes in fares. That means we must get to a position where no one sees the dramatic increases in fares originally proposed for next year.

“I therefore call on the Transport Minister to look seriously at the companies’ case. Whatever comes out of these talks we can’t see fares double next year for anyone. This meeting is a chance for the Minister and businesses from the islands to work together and find a solution to these concerns.

“I am proud of the SNP government’s record in introducing RET after years of other parties ignoring the idea when in government, and even opposing it at elections. I also recognise that the Scottish Government is maintaining RET for cars, vans and passengers, and extending the scheme throughout the west of Scotland, including to the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra. This is all despite £1.3 billion being cut by the UK Government from Scotland’s budget this year. Tomorrow is a chance to get the best possible deal for island businesses.”