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Article: Questions remain over ferry services

April 17, 2012 9:51 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

In these times of austerity, I believe it is important that the UK Government put measures in place to help to protect those on low and middle incomes, people who just want life to be a little easier.

George Lyon MEPGeorge Lyon MEPLiberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have fought hard against the Tory norm to deliver tax cuts for millions of people across the UK, not millionaires.

Following the Budget last month, it was clear that the measures brought in to help families who need it most had Liberal Democrat fingerprints all over them.

From April next year, the income tax threshold will increase by a further £1,100, which will raise the personal allowance limit to £9,200. This will lift an additional 73,000 people in Scotland completely out of income tax and give over 2 million a tax cut.

This is on top of the work we have already done to reduce the tax burden for people across Scotland - including the Western Isles. At the beginning of April, 1000 more islanders were taken out of tax altogether and 9000 people got a £330 tax cut.

That is £330 more in your pockets since the Liberal Democrats took the difficult decision to go into coalition with the Tories two years ago.

We will continue to persuade, prod and push for more until we reach our manifesto commitment of making the first £10,000 of earnings tax free. A big help during tough times.

I am proud to see that Liberal Democrats in Government are helping those who need it most while getting the economy back on track.

Unfortunately in Scotland, the Scottish Government are failing to address a key issue for our island communities.

The SNP Government's plan to extend the road-equivalent tariff (RET) is both unfair and discriminatory. Their decision to increase ferry fares by 6.5% and cut the RET subsidy for commercial vehicles will cause serious damage to the economy of the Western Isles and it appears that they have failed to recognise the impact these rises will have on the cost of living for local communities.

What I and many islanders have been asking is why these plans for swingeing cuts in the RET scheme and the massive rise in ferry fares were kept secret before the Scottish election last year?

Why were islanders duped about these changes to the RET scheme which would have such a far reaching impact on the islands? After all the SNP knew exactly how much money they had to spend for the next three years from Westminster long before the election.

They must have known where they were going to cut yet they announced they were going to extend the scheme, not cut it.

I have had many complaints from island communities up and down the West Coast of Scotland concerned about the SNP Government's plans to discriminate between islands and risk pitting one island against another.

I have, therefore, asked the European Competition Authorities to investigate the Scottish Government's plan for the RET scheme as they have an important role when it comes to competition issues and issues of discrimination.

Thousands of islanders have already supported my petition and if you would like to show your support for my campaign for Fair Ferry Fares for all Scottish Islands, please sign up at www.georgelyon.org.uk