Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has said the SNP Government’s repeated failures to deliver promised fare reductions on the Pentland Firth ferry routes is “utterly unacceptable”.
During questioning by the Scottish Conservative MSP at today’s meeting of Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said Transport Scotland were still looking at a number of issues, admitting he was unable to give a timescale for when fares would be introduced.
Mr Halcro Johnston, who is from Orkney, said islanders would be left wondering if the promise to reduce the fares, which was made by the Scottish Government as far back as 2017 and meant to be delivered in 2018, would be met “any time soon”.
He said: “At election after election, the SNP have promised to deliver reduced fares and then failed to deliver when in government. In 2017, their then Transport Secretary, Humza Yousaf, actually travelled to Orkney to make a commitment to reduce fares by the following year, 2018. But it never happened and we still wait."
“The previous excuse for inaction was that EU state-aid rules and a legal challenge didn’t allow the Scottish Government to meet its pledge. But these issues have been resolved, and so SNP ministers appear to be finding new reasons why this can’t be delivered."
“The Transport Secretary now claims there are issues within Transport Scotland which officials are trying to work through, but he could provide no timescale for when these might be resolved and I have little confidence that we’re likely to see the SNP deliver on their promise any time soon."
“That is utterly unacceptable and it looks like local people and businesses – already forced to wait nearly 3 years for fares to be reduced – will be waiting even longer and with no end date in sight."
“Given the huge economic challenges we face in the coming years because of the longer term impacts of the pandemic and restrictions, this endless uncertainty from SNP ministers just isn’t good enough”.
The exchange can be viewed from approx. 10.26.00 here: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/rural-economy-and-connectivity-committee-march-10-2021