Positive meeting with Transport Minister

The Outer Hebrides Commerce Group has welcomed the commitment from Scottish Transport Minister, Keith Brown MSP, to work with them and help inform future Ministerial decisions regarding ferry fare pricing policy.

After months of publicly bruising exchanges, the Minister requested a meeting with the Group – and they parted, having agreed to sign up to a study that will accurately reflect the benefit of reduced ferry fares.

OHCG Chairman, Calum Campbell, from Polybox Ltd said: “Clearly, there is at last, an appreciation by the SNP Government that massive ferry fare increases depress an already struggling economy. We have had to endure one 50% increase, but today we pledged to work with Government to prevent a further 50% increase next April. We are pleased that Mr Brown signed up to a proper examination of the benefits of reduced ferry fares. The six month study will determine exactly how island businesses and families benefited from cheaper ferry travel. Sadly, the last study commissioned by the SNP Government was error ridden, and misinformed the Government. We already have the support of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to assemble the information required, and we will demonstrate that another 50% increase will be disastrous for our island families and businesses.”

David Wood from Woody’s Express also attended the meeting at the Comhairle offices today. He said: “Mr Brown’s request to meet with us was welcome and conciliatory. Prior to this year’s 50% increase in fares, our views were being dismissed and rubbished. But today, Keith Brown came to the islands, and appeared to genuinely listen to our group, comprising business representatives from Barra to the Butt. We’d hope that in January next year that the Minister will be able to conclude that he must halt the 50% increase due to be implemented next April. We also welcome his commitment to simplify the complicated and discriminatory ferry fares structures that currently exists for commercial traffic. We were very pleased to hear that he wants all hauliers to benefit from a new and easily understood pricing regime. We will work with the SNP Government and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to inform a properly conducted study.”