Following a meeting yesterday (Monday), the Comhairle’s SNP Group claim that RET in the Western Isles will come under threat from Labour as a result of recent speeches made by Labour Leader Johann Lamont.
The Scottish Labour Party, however, have rubbished this suggestion saying the SNP are refusing to take part in a general debate about spending priorities.
A spokesperson for the local SNP Group said: “In her speeches Ms Lamont called for an end to the Scottish Government’s ‘popular’ policies of free tuition fees, free prescriptions, free bus passes, and the council tax freeze.
“However, equally ‘popular’ here in the Western Isles is the Scottish Government’s funding of the Road Equivalent Tariff scheme which has reduced the cost of islanders and visitors travelling to and from the islands for a number of years.
“If Ms. Lamont is keen to start charging tuition fees, charging for prescriptions, withdrawing bus passes and hiking up council tax charges, it’s safe to assume she won’t stop there and that the Scottish Government’s RET subsidy will also be on her radar.
Scottish Labour’s Highlands and Islands MSP, Rhoda Grant, responded saying: “It is important to be absolutely clear about what Johann did and did not say last week as there has been deliberate misrepresentation of what Johann has said by the SNP who are refusing to engage meaningfully in this debate. What Johann argued was that we need an honest debate about current spending commitments and priorities; what she did not say was that any specific universal benefit will be cut.
“On RET, the SNP group are displaying incredible hypocrisy. It was the SNP Government earlier this year that removed the Road Equivalent Tariff from commercial vehicles in the Western Isles which has affected every household in the islands as hauliers have been forced to pass on the transport costs to customers. Scottish Labour joined campaigners in the Western Isles to highlight to the SNP Government that islanders already pay well above the odds for fuel and food.
“The SNP are desperately trying to cover their own inadequacies - I really wish they had spoken with the same clarity when their government was removing RET from commercial vehicles a move that has damaged the fragile Islands economy. This is political hypocrisy at its worst. Scottish Labour wants to put fairness first and will listen to all of Scotland as we set spending priorities.”