The Leader of Orkney Islands Council is calling for the Scottish Government to finally bring in cheaper ferry fares for residents and visitors to the county – more than a decade after they were first rolled out elsewhere in Scotland.
Councillor James Stockan said the end of the Brexit transition period had removed any possible obstacle to the introduction of Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) fares on routes within Orkney and across the Pentland Firth to mainland Scotland.
“This milestone takes away any concerns Ministers might have about the need for further engagement with the European Commission before RET is implemented for our community,” he said.
“There is absolutely nothing now preventing the Government from significantly reducing the cost of ferry travel for our residents and visitors – ending the many years of disadvantage Orkney has suffered when compared to other island communities in Scotland.”
RET was first introduced as a pilot on a number of West Coast ferry routes in 2008. It had been rolled out on all Clyde and Hebrides routes by October 2015, with fares on routes to Shetland reduced by the Government in 2018.
With the Brexit transition period now at an end, Councillor Stockan has written to Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, asking for urgent talks on introducing RET equivalent fares as soon as possible on Pentland Firth routes and for Orkney’s inter-island ferry links.
“We want to engage positively with the Government on this,” Councillor Stockan added. “RET equivalent fares will have a hugely beneficial impact for Orkney – reducing fares that are far higher than those on equivalent routes elsewhere in Scotland.
“Ending this inequality will remove a major barrier standing in the way of Orkney’s recovery from the enormous impact the pandemic has had on our community and local economy.
“I’m asking the Minister to work with us in finally rolling out RET equivalent fares for Orkney – a move critical to our economic recovery, which will have an immediate impact on the daily lives of folk in some of our most fragile communities and provide a welcome boost for our tourism businesses as we look forward with hope to a brighter 2021.”