Transport Minister, Keith Brown MSP, is “failing to take the concerns of island communities seriously” according to Highlands and Islands (Labour) MSP, Rhoda Grant over the issue of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET).
The claim comes following the publication of the Scottish Government commissioned report on the “Impact of the Removal of Road Equivalent Tariff from Commercial Vehicles on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree”, which found that the removal of RET from commercial vehicles was negatively impacting the Western Isles economy.
The influential Outer Hebrides Commerce Group (OHCG) Co-ordinator, Gail Robertson, requested a meeting with the Transport Minister to discuss the impact of RET removal, however was snubbed by the office of Keith Brown who said he was unable to meet the OHCG due to diary commitments.
Rhoda Grant MSP wrote to the Minister on the 14th August urging Keith Brown MSP to make time to meet the OHCG as a matter of priority.
Mrs Grant received a reply dated 9th September from the Transport Minister which said: “We have done everything possible to alleviate the impact of removing RET for hauliers on services on the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree.”
The Minister continues: “I was somewhat surprised to see you suggest that RET be reapplied to commercial vehicles…I look forward to the budget debates coming up and to any serious proposal you which to make in this regard.”
“I have agreed to meet again with the OHCG as soon as diary commitments allow.”
Mrs Grant who raised concern with the response said: “The impact of RET removal from commercial vehicles to the Western Isles has been disastrous. The Scottish Government’s own report has backed that up.”
“Time and time again I have raised the issue of RET both in and outside of Parliament, whilst the Transport Minister continues to ignore the issue.”
“I am astounded that the Transport Minister is claiming he is too busy to meet with the OHCG to discuss the impact his own government’s policies are having on the economy of the Western Isles.”
“I have been arguing for the Scottish Government to reintroduce RET for all vehicles, and will continue to do so.”
“The actions of the Transport Minister show a clear disregard for the plight of island communities. Keith Brown should look again at his own report and meet with the OHCG now so he can hear their concerns first hand.”