Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has called for the introduction of discount schemes for transporting goods to and from the islands, similar to those available on Northern Isles ferry services.
During recent engagement between elected members and the business community in the islands a recurring theme has been the high cost of transporting goods to the islands. Islanders are often unable to access goods where additional charges are levied for transport beyond the mainland.
The cost of getting building materials to the islands significantly inflates the cost of building work. Commercial vehicle fares levied for travel on ferries secured by the Scottish Government through the Clyde and Hebrides ferry service contract are passed on to island based customers and despite much talk of a freight fares review that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar had hoped would deliver a reduction in the cost of moving goods to and from the islands by CalMac’s services, no progress has been made in realising this ambition. The Comhairle has now been told this will be considered in a new Ferries Plan which will not be completed until 2022 at the earliest.
Island hauliers have outlined the very real challenges they face even in comparison to the costs charged on other CalMac routes and on routes paid for by Scottish Government in the Northern Isles. Unlike in the Western Isles where some key benefits like TRS have failed to be reinstated, hauliers taking goods to Orkney and Shetland on Serco Northlink enjoy a range of discounts including:
- Advance Booking Discount up to 21%
- Weekend Rate savings up to 43%
- Empty Trailer discount up to 78%
In the absence of Scottish Government delivering the promised freight fares review, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is calling on Government to deliver a level playing field for the Western Isles by extending the discounts offered on the Northern Isles Ferry Service contract to routes to and from the Western Isles.
Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, said; “The cost of getting goods to and from the islands has an enormous effect on the ability to do business from the Western Isles and impacts on everyday life here. Government should do all it can to foster our fragile island economies. The range of discounts that support key sectors in Orkney and Shetland are very pragmatic steps that support the way of life in the Northern Isles. We do not seek to see these removed. Instead we feel Government should extend these excellent schemes to the Clyde and Hebridean islands to bring a direct reduction to the cost of living and doing business in these islands, too.”