The Outer Hebrides Commerce Group (OHCG) has welcomed the commitment from Scottish
Transport Minister Keith Brown to work with them and help inform future ministerial
decisions regarding ferry fare pricing policy.
After months of publicly bruising exchanges, the minister requested a meeting with
the group which took place in the Comhairle’s offices in Stornoway on Tuesday.
Both sides agreed to sign up to a study that will accurately reflect the benefit
of reduced ferry fares.
OHCG Chairman, Calum Campbell, from Polybox Ltd said: “Clearly, there is at last,
an appreciation by the SNP Government that massive ferry fare increases depress an
already struggling economy. We have had to endure one 50% increase, but today we
pledged to work with Government to prevent a further 50% increase next April.
“We are pleased that Mr Brown signed up to a proper examination of the benefits of
reduced ferry fares. The six month study will determine exactly how island businesses
and families benefited from cheaper ferry travel.
“Sadly, the last study commissioned by the SNP Government was error ridden, and misinformed
the Government. We already have the support of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to assemble
the information required, and we will demonstrate that another 50% increase will
be disastrous for our island families and businesses.”
David Wood from Woody’s Express said: “Mr Brown’s request to meet with us was welcome
and conciliatory. Prior to this year’s 50% increase in fares, our views were being
dismissed and rubbished. But today, Keith Brown came to the islands, and appeared
to genuinely listen to our group, comprising business representatives from Barra
to the Butt.
“We’d hope that in January next year that the Minister will be able to conclude that
he must halt the 50% increase due to be implemented next April. We also welcome
his commitment to simplify the complicated and discriminatory ferry fares structures
that currently exists for commercial traffic.
“We were very pleased to hear that he wants all hauliers to benefit from a new and
easily understood pricing regime. We will work with the SNP Government and Comhairle
nan Eilean Siar to inform a properly conducted study.”