Western Isles SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan, has responded to the release of the independent report into the impact of removing RET for commercial vehicles in the Western Isles.
Dr Allan commented: “I welcome the fact that the Government has carried out this independent research into what has been a contentious debate.
“The report identifies that the Scottish Government is spending a third of a billion pounds on supporting Scotland’s ferry services over the financial years 2012/13 and 2013/14. This is at a time when Scotland’s budget is, of course, being cut by the UK Government.
“This financial support continues to include the provision of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) fares for all cars, vans and foot passengers in the Western Isles, and increasingly on other routes too.
“A number of companies in the islands made clear their disappointment that the initial additional provision of RET for larger commercial vehicles in the islands has been discontinued. This has led to a series of talks with Government and concessions being sought and obtained.
“I certainly don’t want to understate the disappointment felt by a number of these companies, although it should be said that this year’s lorry fares are still less than the last pre-RET fares.
“In talks with the Government, we managed to obtain a number of important concessions, including the extension of the five metre rule on small commercial vehicles to six metres, an undertaking to introduce RET for cars and vans on the Sound of Harris and Sound of Barra routes by 2016, and concessions for the exporters of live shellfish. A scheme of transitional relief means that this year’s increases for lorries were capped at 10%.”
He added: “For me, the real unresolved issue, which the report highlights, is the need to find a system of charging ferry fares for large commercial vehicles that is equitable across both small and large companies, and which is consistent across the whole ferries network.
“I hope the Government will now consider the consistent message of a number of small companies that we should not go back to a system of bulk discount which penalises smaller operators. I have written to the Transport Minister to ask how he intends to ensure this outcome.”