The Outer Hebrides Transport Group claim that the economy of the islands is in crisis and that the effects of the 50 per cent increase recently imposed by the SNP Government on commercial traffic are having a devastating impact.
Co-ordinator of the OHTG, Gail Robertson said: “We have been staggered by the feedback from island companies about the impact of increased ferry fares. It’s alarming and depressing – what we’ve heard from people working in all sectors of the economy.
Mussel farmers who can demonstrate that profitability has reduced by 25-50%; in the retail sector we are being told that pay rises will be half of what was planned and that they can’t hire any additional staff this year. And right across the economy no one is taking on trainees or apprentices. In haulage there are cash flow problems – costs are being carried by hauliers until payment is received and extra costs have been passed on to customers. Many businesses who’ve sent us information are having problems renegotiating prices with customers they have contracts with”.
David Wood of Woody’s Express added: “The ferry fares increase imposed is only the first instalment – there is another 50 per cent increase coming our way next April – unless we mobilise and campaign against it. The OHTG has already spoken with the new leadership at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and we hope to join them and campaign against these ruinous household and haulage taxes. This SNP ferry tax is punishing our islands, and destroying our economy”.