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McArthur demands update on steps to unlock “RET impasse”

Orkney MSP Liam MacArthur

Following further delays on the delivery of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) on Orkney ferry routes this summer, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has called on the new Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson MSP, to update local residents on the steps being taken by the government to resolve the impasse.

Despite repeated promises to introduce the cheaper ferry fares scheme before parliament rose for the summer recess at the end of June, ministers failed to deliver after they were unable to reach an agreement with Pentland Ferries on the details of the scheme.

As a result, fares for passengers and cars on routes serving Orkney remain higher than they should be with no indication as to when this situation will be resolved.

Mr McArthur, along with his Shetland counter-part and fellow Scottish Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott MSP, has now written to Mr Matheson reiterating their disappointment and demanding an update.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said: “For years, Orkney has been excluded from the government’s cheaper ferry fares scheme. Then, despite repeated promises over the last year, ministers failed to reach an agreement that would allow Road Equivalent Tariff to be introduced on external ferry routes serving Orkney and Shetland.

“This has left people in Orkney angry and frustrated, not least as we see another tourism season come and go with no sign of the cheaper fares. Worse still, there has been no indication from the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to try to unlock this impasse.

“The transport secretary must set out clearly what he has done and plans to do to reach a resolution. He must also reaffirm that any fare reductions will be backdated to the end of June this year as previously promised. The funding has been set aside and must benefit those using these lifeline services.

“While Mr Matheson is new in post, he must treat this issue as a priority. He must know that the longer this shambles goes on, the worse it reflects on him and the government.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson responded: “We remain committed to delivering reduced ferry fares to the Northern Isles and are currently undertaking further work on the issue. As a first step, we have cut fares on the Aberdeen to Lerwick and Kirkwall to Lerwick services by around 20 per cent for both passengers and cars.

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