Ferry fares reform: three out of four ain’t bad

THREE of Scotland’s four main political parties have taken major steps towards reforming ferry fares to and from the islands of the Clyde if they find themselves in power after next month’s Holyrood election.

The SNP says it will “look to roll out” fares based on road equivalent tariff (RET) to the Argyll and Clyde islands in light of the Western Isles pilot which has been running since 2008.

Labour has promised to make RET fares permanent in the Western Isles and to widen the coverage of the scheme to include the Clyde and Argyll.

The Liberal Democrats say they will not extend RET fares, but will instead introduce a discount scheme which will allow island residents to travel for at least 25 per cent less than the cost of a standard ticket.

Only the Conservatives make no explicit mention of ferry fares reform in their manifesto, although they do pledge to reduce the overall subsidy given to ferry services by tendering the Clyde and Hebrides routes in smaller bundles.

The SNP’s Argyll and Bute candidate, Michael Russell, said: “I am delighted that there is a clear commitment in the manifesto to the extension of RET, something I have supported for some time and which has been campaigned for by the communities on the Argyll and Cldye islands.

“Once the evaluation of the Western Isles pilot is complete, the SNP government will proceed to roll out the new support, and this is also allowed for in the financial projection published alongside the manifesto.”

The Liberal Democrats’ campaign manager, former Argyll and Bute MSP George Lyon, said: “We will take the £20 million by which the government subsidy for ferry services has risen and turn it into a similar scheme to the air discount scheme, which we introduced when we were last in power. “If there’s going to be a lump of money used to reform ferry fares, all islanders should get the benefit of that.”