NFU Scotland has called for a ferry tariff scheme to be extended to commercial vehicles in a bid to boost fragile island economies.
In its submission to Transport Scotland on freight ferry fares, the Union has called on the Scottish Government to reconsider the expansion of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) to commercial vehicles.
As well as benefitting island-based farmers and crofters – who are dependent on ferry services for hauling goods on and off the island – the Union believes the biggest benefit would be to the long-term viability of the island’s economy.
NFU Scotland Policy Manager, Gemma Thomson said: “The ferry service remains a lifeline for many farmers and crofters. It brings vital inputs such as fertiliser, feed, fuel and stock to the island and is the crucial link in getting a farm’s produce to the marketplace.
“The reality is that without an affordable service which is subject to suitable discounts, many farm-based businesses would be unviable. These farms and crofts provide employment, safeguard the landscape, and bring tourists to the islands. They are in most parts the cornerstone of island life, and safeguarding them through affordable ferry charges will play a vital role in the ongoing fight against rural depopulation.
“We want the Scottish Government to reconsider the expansion of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) to commercial vehicles and not restrict it to non-commercial traffic, as is the current position.
“In the meantime, our island members would continue to value the commodity related discounts available. These help farming businesses to keep functioning and their removal would devastate the rural economies in these fragile areas. Commodity related discounts for hay, straw, and livestock must continue and an extension of the discount to cover milk would also be of great assistance for those hard-pressed dairy farmers on the islands.”