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McArthur calls for action on lifeline ferry routes

May 23, 2013 8:45 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has used a debate on ferries in the ScottishLiam McArthurLiam McArthur Parliament today to criticise the Scottish Government's approach to Road Equivalent Tariff. He also highlighted the need for lessons to be learned from the recent problems on the Stromness-Scrabster route.

Commenting on RET during the debate, Mr McArthur said,

"Nowhere is the cynicism and short termism of this SNP government more in evidence than in its handling of RET. By deciding to focus the pilot phase of the cheap ferry fares scheme solely on the Western Isles, Ministers made it clear their priority was shoring up support in a key SNP constituency.

"Even when it came to rolling out the scheme more widely, Ministers only felt inclined to include routes on the west coast.

"There seems no credible justification for this discrimination, and the ever-changing reasons put forward by Ministers for Orkney and Shetland's exclusion only serve to reinforce the impression that this is all about politics - not a desire to put in place long term, sustainable and equitable arrangements for what, after all, are lifeline services to our island communities".

Turning later to the issue of the Hamnavoe's breakdown, Mr McArthur repeated his calls for lessons to be learned but also urged Serco to take the opportunity re-build confidence by looking again at its decision to cut sailings on the Pentland Firth route.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

"I would call on Serco to look again at re-instating some of the middle of the day sailings so as to better align its summer timetable with that of the tourist season in Orkney. The scale of the cut in sailings, sanctioned by the government's contract, works against the efforts of the tourism sector to extend the 'shoulders' of the season.

"Similarly, I would urge Serco to reconsider the decision to reduce discounts available to elderly, disabled and students passengers and recognise that this goes against the spirit of providing a lifeline service between Orkney and the Mainland".