Minster announces extra funding to support hauliers

Transport Minister, Keith Brown, has announced extra financial help for all hauliers and businesses using ferry routes to the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree.

The Scottish Government say this will provide an extra £2.5m next year to support new transitional arrangements for all commercial vehicles, regardless of size, using these routeS; will mean no haulier will see fares rises of more than 50 per cent in any year; will bring fare parity across all sizes of hauliers; and will see the Scottish Government work closely alongside hauliers and

communities to lobby Westminster and other organisations on issues outside its control.

They are also conducting a six month study to consider the broader socio-economic impact of ferry fares policy.

This is in addition to extra help announced last week for all vehicles up to six metres qualifying for RET with potential savings of up to 50 per cent. This represents investment of some £5.3m next year, and follows the recent decision to roll out Road Equivalent Tariff to all CalMac routes in Scotland for cars and passengers.

Mr Brown said: “We are determined to support our island and remote communities and underlined this last week with new arrangements for small commercial vehicles qualifying

for RET on routes to Western Isles, Coll and Tiree. That announcement means all vehicles up to six metres in length will qualify for RET from April this year on those CalMac services, giving potential savings of up to 50%.

“We are providing more evidence of our commitment in support of those communities and all hauliers serving those communities. We are investing £2.5m on these transitional arrangements for larger commercial vehicles next year. This will ensure all hauliers, regardless of size, have access to the same support and that no fare will rise by more than 50 per cent in any year over the transitional period.”

He added: “I had a constructive meeting with hauliers last week and one particular concern raised was that previous discount schemes had benefitted some hauliers more than

others. By capping the rises all hauliers on any given route will pay the same. Before RET was introduced some large hauliers were able to claim rebates of a maximum of just 15 per cent on their fares. We believe this new transitional arrangement will better support all hauliers with significant discounts available.

“While the meeting also recognised the budget pressures on the Scottish Government it was clear we must also recognise the external factors impacting on hauliers’ day to day business - like increase in fuel prices, VAT and insurance - all circumstances beyond the Scottish Government’s control and beyond the

scope of what RET was set up to do. We would be very happy to listen further to hauliers and communities and work with them in lobbying Westminster and relevant organisations to ensure their concerns are heard and acted upon.

“Building on previous monitoring and evaluation of the RET pilot, we have agreed to work with key stakeholders and hauliers on a six month study which will look

in detail at the broader socio-economic impact of ferry fares policy. This will bring additional clarity for all communities relying on ferry services to the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree.

“Our ambition is to see greater connectivity right across the Western Isles, Coll and Tiree, and our pilot has shown the scheme to have had a very positive impact on local economies, boosting the local tourist trade. We want to ensure that continues and for RET to be a permanent feature for passengers and cars on the current routes, while extending to include new routes across the West of

Scotland.

“When we announced the roll out of RET, we pledged to listen, discuss and agree with hauliers a more flexible approach in the application of a transitional arrangement. We believe this arrangement is a more affordable and equitable approach which will help reduce the impact on affected hauliers and businesses, without compromising on the substantial benefits island communities right across

the west of Scotland will accrue through an extended RET.”

See full interview with Mr Brown and reaction from hauliers in this week’s Stornoway Gazette.