Tavish used yesterday’s debate in the Scottish Parliament on the tendering of Clyde and Hebrides ferry services, currently operated by Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac), to raise the issue of fairer ferry fares for Shetland residents. CalMac is competing to retain the contract against Serco, who currently operate NorthLink routes. CalMac and Serco are required to submit their final tenders next month, with awarding of the contract scheduled for May 2016. Last month saw the expansion of the Road Equivalent Tarriff (RET), which saw the remaining 14 Clyde and Hebrides ferry routes benefit from a 55 per cent cut in fares.
‘‘If the Government cuts ferry fares by 55 per cent on the west coast, I welcome that, as it is supportive and a good thing for those west coast island communities.’’
‘‘However, if we do that, we need to find a way to ensure that the policy applies to other areas as well, because Orkney and Shetland are seeing no benefit from that approach. Road equivalent tariff does not work for us in the same way, but that does not mean that we cannot have a fair fares policy that allows improvements to be made for the economies of those islands.’’
‘‘I hope that, in the round, the approach that the Government will take will be not just about the vital issues of terms and conditions, pensions and the rights of the men and women who work for CalMac, but also about the fares and services that those of us who are islanders depend on.’’