These are very intriguing times when it comes to our inter island ferries, it looks more and more likely they will be funded entirely by the Scottish government. However, does this mean that the fares will increase? Will timetables change for the worse? Or perhaps for the better? The truth is, we don’t know at the moment and that uncertainty is causing a lot of concern among local people in the North Isles.
I started the Fair Ferry Fares campaign to challenge the cost of getting to and from Shetland, and have made my voice heard in the Scottish Government’s Transport Department. If there are any signs of Shetland’s inter-island ferries receiving a less-than-acceptable deal, you can be assured that I will be onto the Transport Minister immediately.
With the current fare structure the islands can be expensive for some to visit, let alone reside in. It is also the case that some people are being put off from living on our islands not because of the ferries or the remote setting, but because the cost of commuting to and from the isles are too high. This is something that if elected I will look into to see if anything can be done to offset these costs. This is something that must be looked at and addressed.
Going forward we must make sure that the ferry timetable is fit for purpose both for residents and businesses. Any reduction in the current level of service would cause serious problems for businesses particularly and those needing to commute.
I believe going forward the idea of fixed links will be mooted more and more. The link would incur a high one off fee but could be paid for using a toll. Each island should decide for themselves if they want to push the idea of fixed links. I fully understand this is a complex issue for some islands and a “blanket plan” for fixed links to islands wouldn’t work. I will engage with all community councils to find a solution which best works for each island.