3 November 2017
Highlands & Islands Regional MSP Rhoda Grant at General Question time yesterday (2/11/17) in the Scottish Parliament, asked the Government what impact the proposed cost increase for ferry freight from 1 January 2018 will have on the Northern Isles, in light of reports that it was believed that prices would remain frozen.
The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing advised that the revisions to freight fares reflect the terms of the northern isles ferry services contract, which allows for increases based on the consumer prices index.
The revisions follow two years during which freight fares have been frozen.
Rhoda said, “ Passenger and freight ferry services between the Northern Isles and the Scottish mainland are essential to the social and economic sustainability of both Island communities.
“We have to ensure that businesses on the Northern Isles are not facing an excessive cost premium with regards to freight being taken to or from the islands.
“I welcome the initiatives brought in to reduce fares through RET for passengers and cars, but I am concerned that there has been no final decision yet with regards to freight.
“ I understood that one of the Governments main objectives was to reduce the cost of living for islanders living in the Northern isles and to support the food and drink sector.
“If we have increases in freight charges surely that would be contrary to this objective.
“I would urge the Government to think this one through very carefully because there is no point in giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
“Businesses on these islands need to be competitive and any increases in freight costs will ultimately affect residents.