Slim majority vote for RET removal

SIXTY four MSPs, including Western Isles representative Alasdair Allan, voted in favour of a motion to continue with the plan to remove Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) on commercial vehicles at the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Thursday).

In a heated debated an amended motion was put forward by Transport Minister Keith Brown which found the support of 64 politicians with 54 voting against.

The debate had arisen following a motion put forward by the Labour MSP Elaine Murray calling for the plan to remove RET to be halted until after the conclusion of a socio-economic study of its consequences.

Hauliers are disappointed with the outcome of the debate and say the Scottish Government’s plans could mean the loss of up to 100 jobs in the Western Isles and increase costs dramatically for local households. It is estimated that the cost of building a new house in the islands could rise by £5,000 if the plans go ahead.

The Transport Minister’s motion stated that only seven per cent of hauliers had passed on the full benefits of RET to consumers – a suggestion very much refuted by local companies and campaigners.

Defending his decision to vote in favour of the Transport Minister’s motion, Alasdair Allan MSP said just before he cast his vote yesterday: “The motion does not change the policy on RET – it just describes the situation, and it is reasonable therefore that it includes all the relevant issues (including the transitional relief, changes to the five metre rule etc. For that reason I will be voting for the amended version of the motion which mentions these issues.”

The Outer Hebrides Transport Group (OHTG) stated: “The amendment in Keith Brown’s name is a betrayal of the islands and our people.

“We cannot believe that the SNP government is committed to bringing economic ruination on our islands by basing a policy decision on a falsehood, and not allowing proper analysis prior to its implementation.

“Their amendment is laughable and is a desperate attempt to mask the reality of what they are imposing and it is shameful that they are trying to delude people into believing that fare increases of 50% and more, represent ‘major progress’ and will help sustain our islands, our families and our communities.”

The group said they were ‘bitterly disappointed’ with Alasdair Allan’s vote.